Labor union president says LSD’s crack should be an alarm to lawmakers

CHICAGO — A portion of Lake Shore Drive will remain closed after crews declared a "structural emergency" on a bridge Monday. 

A year and a half ago, IDOT inspectors ranked the section of Lake Shore Drive to be in “fair to satisfactory condition” with only minor deterioration and cracks.

Construction workers who know the state’s bridges and roads well said they have been telling the governor’s office for years that a bridge collapse in Illinois was only a matter of time.

The International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 150, the labor union representing working men and women in Illinois, Indiana and Iowa, said, if that’s the case, just imagine what the really bad bridges must be like.

Local 150 represents workers in various industries, including construction, construction material production, public works, concrete pumping, steel mill service, slag production and others.

The president of Local 150 James Sweeney said he is worried he was that this day would finally come.

“As a nation, we are playing Russian Roulette with our safety,” Sweeney said.

Sweeney said the damage on Lake Shore Drive Monday is more than a wake up call and an alarm that should be sounding all over Springfield and especially inside the governor’s mansion. Something needs to be done to prevent a “total bridge collapse” from happening in Illinois as it did in Minneapolis in 2007 where 13 people died and over a hundred were injured.

Sweeney said he was relieved Monday’s event wasn’t “a total collapse.” But he was angry “because this is what we’ve been screaming about for a decade.”

Sweeney believes you can blame the age of the bridges, the lack of proper maintenance and maybe even the weather, but the money to fix them is simply not there and Governor Pritzker needs to make it a priority. Just last December, Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel was making that very case and wanted to raise the gas tax to pay for infrastructure fixes.

Sweeney said engineers will tell you some bridges needed fixing a half a century ago.

“If you look around the city and if you drive around, look up, many are past life expectancy,” he said.

In fact that is the name of their new ad, “The Look Up Campaign.” It was released only to WGN News weeks before it was supposed to go public. The union said Monday’s Lake Shore Drive bridge debacle caused them to release it earlier than expected.

“I never stop under a bridge in this city if I can help it,” Sweeney said.

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