WASHINGTON, Aug. 24, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The 5.8-magnitude earthquake that rattled the Eastern Seaboard on Tuesday should serve as a reminder of the precarious state of America's bridges and other critical transportation needs, according to Terry O'Sullivan, General President of LIUNA – the Laborers' International Union of North America.
"Yesterday, in states up and down the East Coast, we saw inspectors being sent out to inspect bridges that are too old, too congested and, in many cases, already desperately in need of repair," O'Sullivan said. "There is no doubt that inspectors are seeing the damage brought on by years of neglect. It shouldn't take a once-in-a-century earthquake to focus our attention on this looming disaster."
The renewed, if temporary, focus on the country's transportation needs brought to light a problem that is decades in the making. For example, officials in Pennsylvania had to temporarily shut down the 98-year-old Penn Street Bridge in Reading due to a large crack in the bridge's structure. Officials were unsure whether the crack was caused by the earthquake – or equally damaging neglect.
The bridge is one of nearly 150,000 in America that is in need of repair. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, more than one-fourth of bridges in the United States are either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.
"This is insanity. We can't rely on earthquakes to make us take a closer look at our bridges and roads, and we certainly shouldn't be in a situation where structural issues in 100-year-old bridges are going unnoticed," O'Sullivan said. "This is the time to seriously address these issues, and the best way to do that is for Congress to pass a Highway Bill that fully invests in these basic needs and prevents America from falling further behind."
This summer, LIUNA members have dedicated themselves to lobbying Congress to pass a bipartisan Senate plan that would maintain investment in America's roads and bridges while also protecting and creating jobs. LIUNA members are urging their representatives in Congress to reject a plan put forward by House GOP leaders that would slash investment by over one-third, putting more than 600,000 jobs at risk.
"If we continue to let our bridges rot, they won't be able to handle the cars and trucks that drive on them, much less an earthquake," O'Sullivan said. "Let's use this event as a reminder that we have a chance to invest in our roads and bridges, create jobs, get our economy moving, ensure America's global competitiveness and leave behind real assets for taxpayers and future generations."
The half-million members of LIUNA – the Laborers' International Union of North America – are on the forefront of the construction industry, a powerhouse of workers who are proud to build America.
SOURCE Laborers' International Union of North America