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Bridges Shouldn't Have to Collapse for Congress to Get Serious About Infrastructure

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Source: The Nation


San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge. (Shutterstock)

"How many more bridges must collapse, how many people must be hurt or die and how many billions of dollars must be drained from our economy before Congress makes investing in the basic infrastructure of our country a priority?"

That was the question from Terry O'Sullivan, the general president of the Laborers' International Union of North America, after last week's collapse of the Interstate 5 Bridge over the Skagit River in Washington State.

O'Sullivan has asked it before.

In fact, he and his union have been focused on infrastructure issues for so long that they don't just have questions. They've got answers.

Which prompts another question: Is Washington ready to listen to the people who have been saying for years that we can't afford to keep neglecting and shortchanging our nation's infrastructure?

It is no secret that Congress turns to business leaders for advice and counsel on national priorities. In fact, there are days when it seems that Washington does nothing else.

But as attention again turns to the question of how to respond to crumbling infrastructure, it would be foolish and irresponsible to neglect the work of groups like the American Society of Civil Engineers -- which now gives an overall grade of "D+" when weighing the condition of the country's infrastructure -- and the unions that have embraced, highlighted and expanded upon the ASCE's report cards.

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John Nichols, a pioneering political blogger, has written the Online Beat since 1999. His posts have been circulated internationally, quoted in numerous books and mentioned in debates on the floor of Congress.

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