INFRASTRUCTURE FUNDING IS LAYING THE GROUNDWORK FOR A STRONG FUTURE

 In Newsletter: Spring '24

Ninety years ago, the Bourne Bridge spanning the Cape Cod Canal was called “The Most Beautiful Bridge Built During 1934” by the American Institute of Steel Construction. Built simultaneously, the Sagamore Bridge opened to traffic on the same day as the Bourne on June 22, 1935. The construction of these bridges, as well as efforts to widen and deepen the Cape Cod Canal, represented a feat of engineering and a huge step forward for commerce; but perhaps most importantly at the time – they represented an economic lifeline for the thousands of workers who built the bridges during the depths of the Great Depression.

Today, few people would give either Cape Cod bridge any type of accolade. Like much of our infrastructure throughout the United States, the Cape Cod bridges have served well beyond their intended life. But that won’t be possible for too much longer. If we continue with the band-aid approach to bridge maintenance of the past 90 years, the Bourne and Sagamore Bridges would need to be reduced to single-lane traffic by 2040. Anyone who has sat in Cape Cod bridge traffic during the summer needs no further explanation of just how catastrophic that would be. To continue to serve their vital purpose to the Cape, the state, and the region, the bridges must be replaced.

While many past Presidential Administrations have talked a big game on infrastructure and failed to deliver, the Biden Administration made our nation’s aging infrastructure a day-one priority and has been delivering real results. States and municipalities throughout our DC 35 jurisdiction have been seeing federal money flow in to take on long overdue infrastructure projects, but no announcement was more significant than the one in December that the Maura Healey Administration was awarded $372 million in federal funding from the Multimodal Project Discretionary Grant program towards the replacement of the Cape Cod bridges. This is in addition to the $262 million in state capital funds that the Healey Administration has committed to the bridge replacement, and the $350 million that President Biden included in his federal budget proposal for the project, which will need to receive approval from both the U.S. House and Senate.

Additionally, the Healey Administration filed another application in December requesting $1.06 billion in grant funding through the federal Bridge Improvement Program, specifically for the replacement of the Sagamore Bridge. If this application is successful, it would allow the $2.13 billion Sagamore Bridge replacement project to move forward, while continuing to work on fully funding the replacement of the Bourne Bridge. To replace both bridges will cost a total of $4.5 billion.

While that amount of funding is difficult to fathom, so is the number of jobs the replacement project would create. In a letter of support sent to the U.S. Secretary of Transportation. Pete Buttigieg by BM/ST Chris Brennan, he points out that it would take nearly 10,000 workers to complete the replacement of both bridges–including many industrial painters represented by DC 35–working under a Project Labor Agreement that the Healey Administration has already committed to. This type of project would be a game-changer for thousands of current union members, as well as those potential members who would get the opportunity to start a union career as a result of this project.

While the funding announcements and statements of support from the Biden Administration have been extremely encouraging, there is still work to do to ensure that this critical project moves forward. DC 35 will continue to work closely with the Healey Administration, the Massachusetts Building Trades, and our federal elected officials to advocate for the necessary funding for this massive undertaking.

In addition to our transportation infrastructure, the Biden Administration has also prioritized investments in our domestic energy infrastructure – particularly new forms of clean energy like offshore wind. As a District Council representing wind-rich coastal states like Maine and Massachusetts, this is welcome news that has already begun to create jobs for our members on the water, and in building and maintaining the additional port infrastructure needed to support the offshore wind industry.

The dynamic was much different under the previous presidential Administration. In 2019, the Trump Administration delayed a key permit for the Vineyard Wind project, throwing the viability of the entire project into jeopardy. If not for the Biden Administration quickly reversing course and approving construction of the Vineyard Wind project within President Biden’s first few months in office, we would not currently have members working in this burgeoning industry that will produce work for decades to come. Soon, we will also start to see the benefit as electric utility ratepayers as well. The Vineyard Wind project reached the important milestone of sending its first electricity into the Massachusetts electric grid in early 2024, on its way to generating 800 megawatts of clean, domestic power, brought to you by union labor under a Project Labor Agreement.

When it comes to our nation’s infrastructure, talk is cheap. It’s results that matter. And in the case of the Biden and Healey Administrations, we are seeing the results that will put our members to work for years to come. Let’s not forget that in November.

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