Speaking under the visibly time-worn 10th Avenue Bridge in Minneapolis yesterday, U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, Congresswoman Betty McCollum and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak addressed construction workers and business leaders. The trio called on Americans to pressure Congress to pass the American Jobs Act, which President Obama proposed two weeks ago. Later in the day, Secretary Solis addressed a national young workers conference hosted by the AFL-CIO.
“One of the jobs that I have is to get the 14 million unemployed Americans back to work,” said Solis, “and get the millions and millions of construction workers who have been out of work for more than three years back to work.” According to a U.S. Department of Labor press release, the American Jobs Act would invest more than $600 million in the North Star State to fund highway and transit modernization projects — which could put roughly 7,500 Minnesotans back to work modernizing roads and bridges. In 2007, there were 116,000 people employed by Minnesota’s construction sector. Today, that number is down to 86,300.
Rybak contrasted the decaying exterior of the 10th Avenue Bridge under which he stood with the neighboring I-35W bridge, which was rebuilt in under a year after it collapsed into the Mississippi River on August 1, 2007. “We stand next to a bridge which shows what happens when infrastructure doesn’t work, and we stand next to a bridge which shows what happens when American comes together and gets something done. We stand under a bridge which shows what needs to be done now in America.”
More than 1,000 bridges in Minnesota, including the 10th Avenue Bridge, are in need of serious repairs, according to the Labor Department. Roughly 8 percent of all the state’s bridges, or one in 12, is considered structurally deficient — a startling statistic for the more than 80,000 residents who drive over these bridges each day.
Also present under the 10th Avenue Bridge yesterday were members of the Minnesota Building and Construction Trades Council, the Association of Women Contractors, the National Association of Minority Contractors, the Association of General Contractors, the Minnesota Department of Transportation and the Minnesota AFL-CIO.