WASHINGTON: Trade associations and labor unions say the recent bridge collapse in Minnesota that killed at least 13 people has prompted new interest in their longtime advocacy of increased investment in US transportation infrastructure.
Jeff Solsby, director of public affairs for the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA), said the collapse of the Interstate 35W Bridge has drawn significant media attention to his organization, which has sought to be a clearinghouse for statistics and other information on US roads and bridges.
“One approach we took in our communications was not to get into questions of cause and fault, because that is still under investigation by a host of agencies, but to really offer ARBTA as industry experts,” he said.
ARBTA, the American Society of Civil Engineers, and the National League of Cities, among other groups, have long pushed for increased infrastructure investment by Congress, whose members in the aftermath of the accident promised support for new and existing related legislation.
Bevin Albertani, legislative representative for the Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA), whose members represent many of the workers that build roads and bridges, said that her group’s communications efforts have been aided more by the Democratic takeover of Congress than the recent bridge collapse.
“In the last Congress, there wasn’t any real infrastructure legislation that was passed, other than the highway bill,” she said. “When the Democrats started to take over, that’s really when the uptick started.”
Solsby noted, however, that several Republicans have recently called for support various infrastructure-related measures, including an increase in the gas tax.
To increase the impact and reach of their communications, ARBTA, LIUNA, and other groups in communicating with the public, the media, and Congress has sought to be part of coalitions of groups with similar interests in infrastructure investment. For example, ARBTA joined with a group called Americans for Transportation Mobility to offer up expert commentary to the media in the wake of the recent bridge collapse.
Widmeyer Communications, APCO Worldwide, and FD Dittus Communication are all on retainer with ARBTA and have provided strategic counsel recently to the group, Solsby said.