The Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) is sending a blunt message to the public about the nation’s crumbling infrastructure, hoping to generate political momentum behind several stalled bills in Congress.

Example of the type of billboard the union is sponsoring
Photo: Bruce Buckley/ENR
Example of the type of billboard the union is sponsoring

The initial budget for the program is about $2 million and could rise significantly from that level, the union said.

LIUNA kicked off its campaign, dubbed Build America 2010, in Colorado on May 18. It includes billboards unveiled in Denver at a bridge on Interstate-70 and at another bridge, on Sixth Street. The billboards carry such messages as “Bridge Just Crossed is Structurally Deficient."

The Colorado billboards also encourage the public to bring up the issue with the state's U.S. senators, Michael Bennet and Mark Udall, both Democrats.
The union aims to energize debate on Capitol Hill about such bills as a new multi-year surface-transportation measure, which has only cleared a subcommittee in the House and is stalled in the Senate.
“Our goal is to change that and we aim to do that with a member-driven, media-driven movement that unites allies in communities, in business and in government,” said Terry O’Sullivan, LIUNA’s general president.
In addition, LIUNA plans to use online ads, including ones placed with Google Maps so motorists know if their routes include deficient bridges, O’Sullivan said. Radio ads and television ads are also planned.
LIUNA is considering similar efforts in Indiana, Missouri, Iowa, Ohio, Kentucky, Massachusetts and Virginia, “ultimately engaging with eight to 10 senators or candidates for the Senate,” O’Sullivan said.
LIUNA sees transportation legislation as a jobs bill. O’Sullivan says a $565-billion, six-year bill for highways and bridges could create 8 million jobs, including construction, suppliers and other related businesses.
Bevin Albertani, LIUNA's political and legislative director, said she doesn’t expect action on the transportation bill before the midterm elections, but LIUNA wants to make it a top priority for the next Congress.
“We’re hoping this will drive the dialogue now,” she said.