Another Day, Another Bridge: Union Puts Pressure On GOP Freshman

The Sherman Minton Bridge in Indiana was closed because a crack was found, but the local GOP congressman opposes the kind of increased federal infrastructure spending which could fix and reopen the span.

Just days after President Obama stood by a bridge to make his case to pass his American Jobs Act, a labor union has turned attention to another major span — this one in actual desperate need of repair — to demonstrate the need for increased investment in U.S. infrastructure as a way to put Americans back to work.

LIUNA – the Laborers International Union of North America – says it is mobilizing members in the district of Rep. Todd Young (R-Ind.) to support action to repair and safely reopen the I-64 Sherman-Minton Bridge at the Indiana-Kentucky state crossing. The bridge – a high-traffic artery for commuters and commerce in the region – was closed indefinitely on September 9 by Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) after inspectors deemed it unsafe after a crack was found in a load-bearing beam.

As frustration grows amongst constituents and commuters, Young –- a freshman from Indiana’s 9th District, where the bridge is located –- is on the record opposing the investments needed to build America’s transportation systems and care for its bridges, the union says.

A statement issued by Young’s office indicated only that Young will “stay in the loop” with officials “to assess what could be provided at the federal level,” LIUNA says in a statement.

Meanwhile, Young has signed onto House Republican budget outlines which continue the pattern of tax breaks for the rich and slashed investment in the nation’s basic infrastructure, including a one-third cut in the federal highway program.

Young, who won election in last year’s conservative wave by defeating longtime incumbent Democratic Rep. Baron Hill, dismissed the types of infrastructure spending Obama calls for with his $447-billion jobs bill.

Currently 1.2 million construction workers are jobless; under the House Republican highway bill, investment would be cut by a third and an additional 630,000 jobs would disappear, LIUNA says.

The union says that in response to Young’s inaction, hundreds of local LIUNA members in Young’s district have mobilized, placing calls to his office and urging him to work though gridlock in Washington to support a U.S. Senate outline of the highway funding bill which would keep investment level and protect jobs.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Sherman-Minton Bridge is one of nearly 150,000 -– or one-in-four of the nation’s bridges –- that is in need of repair.

Earlier this month, LIUNA helped pressure Congress to pass a temporary extension of its highway bill to keep a stable investment level for six months. The union is now pressing for a long-term highway bill along the lines of the more-generous Senate proposal.

“As Congress debates job-creation measures and the future of America’s roads, bridges and highways on a national level, we’re going to make sure Congressman Young knows where his constituents stand on the issue,” says Frank DeGraw, business manager of the Indiana Laborers’ District Council. “What remains to be seen now is how and when Congressman Young is going to act to repair this bridge, get it reopened, and get people and commerce moving again.”

 

Scott Nance is the editor and publisher of the news site The Washington Current. He has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.

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