Updated 10/19/11 – 5:50 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — Local labor union and business groups are pushing for congress to spend more money an estimated 70,000 structurally deficient bridges across the U.S.
WBBM Newsradio’s Nancy Harty reports that backers of the study by Transportation For America are pushing for more federal transportation spending.
The report, from a coalition of environmental, transit and consumer groups, found that almost 10 percent of the Chicago area’s bridges – more than 400 altogether – are structurally deficient. That means an engineer has identified a major defect in a bridge’s support structure or deck.
Brian Imus, state director of the Illinois Public Interest Research Group, detailed the findings of a report by the group Transportation For America.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Nancy Harty Reports
“Seventy-one cars drive over a structurally deficient bridge every second in the Chicago metro area,” Imus said.
Among the bridges labeled structurally deficient were the bridge at Lake Shore Drive and Lawrence Avenue, the bridge at 18th Street and the Chicago River and the bridge at LaSalle Street and the Chicago River.
Gideon Blustein, executive director of the Infrastructure Council at the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, said Chicago could lose its place as a transportation hub without proper maintenance.
“We’re quickly falling behind – spending less than many of our global competitors on transportation infrastructure,” Blustein said.
Standing under a 78-year-old bridge at Lake Shore Drive and Wilson Avenue that is held up with temporary supports, U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Illinois) said she doesn’t understand why Washington won’t spend more to fix the area’s structurally deficient bridges.
“Don’t my colleagues and their families and their children drive over bridges like this? Isn’t this a priority?” Schakowsky said.
She said the 2007 Minneapolis bridge collapse that killed 13 people is a perfect example of what will happen if this kind of infrastructure is ignored.
Chicago Federation of Labor President Jorge Ramirez said that investing in infrastructure puts people back to work.
“$1.25 billion spent on transportation creates nearly 35,000 jobs,” Ramirez said.
The Illinois Department of Transportation, which is responsible for maintenance of 134 bridges on the list in the Chicago area, said that being considered “structurally deficient” does not mean a bridge is unsafe.
“There are no unsafe or dangerous Illinois Department of Transportation bridges open to the public. The state follows a rigorous inspection schedule for all of its bridges,” IDOT officials said in a prepared statement.
Meantime, the group behind the study, Transportation For America, called on Congress to eliminate the nation’s estimated $70 billion backlog of repairs for potentially dangerous bridges.