Billboards warning motorists of structurally deficient bridges are among the methods being used by a major union organization in an aggressive campaign designed to build public support for increased federal spending on infrastructure.
The Laborers’ International Union of North America “Build America 2010” media effort includes billboards, radio ads, Google maps, online ads and other outreach. The campaign began May 14 in Colorado and has spread to Kentucky, Maryland, Indiana and Pennsylvania.
“In every state where we focus, we will do the same to highlight deficient and obsolete bridges—of which there are 149,663 in America—and to start the conversation about taking care of this country,” LIUNA general president Terry O’Sullivan said at the campaign’s kickoff.
“The state of our nation’s critical, fundamental infrastructure—our transportation systems, our water resources, energy systems and other basics— is dire,” O’Sullivan added. “That is well-documented, often discussed and, to date, rarely acted upon.”
‘Support Jobs-Creating Legislation’
LIUNA has 800,000 members in 650 locals and 50 industries across North America. In August, the union ended its four-year split with the AFL-CIO and rejoined the international group.
“LIUNA’s Build America 2010 campaign will mobilize our half-million members and allies to drive the effort to move the U.S. Senate to support jobs-creating legislation building our roads, bridges, water resources and schools,” the union said in a recent statement.
The Build America initiative began with a call for a new surface transportation bill. On Labor Day, President Obama echoed that call, proposing a six-year, $50 billion plan to shore up the nation’s infrastructure.
Build America is moving from state to state in similar fashion, typically with an event near a structurally deficient bridge, a fact sheet of statistics tailored to that state’s infrastructure problems, an estimate of jobs that could be created by more infrastructure projects, and a call to the public to contact legislators.
Build Maryland 2010 began Aug. 3, within view of the Wilkens Avenue Bridge over Gwynns Falls—one of 1,343 bridges in the state that are either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, LIUNA says. The bridge has been identified by the city for rehabilitation since 2004.
“The problems facing Maryland are already too big to ignore,” said Jim Anastase, business manager of LIUNA Local 710, based in Baltimore. “One-fourth of our bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. One-third of our roads are in mediocre or poor condition.”
Added Denny Martire, a LIUNA vice president: “Another year of delay means another $150 billion of taxpayer money will be needed just to remain competitive.”
Build Kentucky 2010 was announced Aug. 12 under a bridge of the John F. Kennedy Memorial Bridge structure—one of 4,426 structurally deficient or functionally obsolete bridges in the state, according to LIUNA.
Build Indiana began Aug. 24 at the headquarters of the Construction Advancement Foundation, a major contracting association located a short distance from the I-94 bridge over Route 20—one of 4,111 bridges in the state that are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, LIUNA said.
Build Pennsylvania kicked off at a Labor Day Parade in Pittsburgh, hours before Obama unveiled his infrastructure proposal during a rally in Milwaukee. One in four bridges in Pennsylvania is considered structurally deficient, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.
O’Sullivan lauded the infrastructure proposal.
“For too long, the basics of America have been allowed to deteriorate, threatening our ability to move goods and people and to compete in the global economy,” O’Sullivan said. “While nations such as China invest upwards of 10 percent of their GDP in new superhighways, bullet trains and other critical infrastructure, the U.S. has fallen behind, investing about 2 percent.
“Meanwhile, 1.5 million men and women in the construction industry who want to go to work today building the basics of our country are jobless.”
For more information, visit www.LiunaBuildsAmerica.org.