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Smashed bus illustrates need of road, bridge improvements

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    The ‘‍Getting Schooled in Infrastructure’ school bus is parked in front of One Government Center in Toledo. The Laborers’ International Union of North America is taking this bus across the country ‘‍schooling’ the public about failing infrastructure. The campaign calls for increase in gas tax.

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    Greer

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The ‘‍Getting Schooled in Infrastructure’ school bus is parked in front of One Government Center in Toledo. The Laborers’ International Union of North America is taking this bus across the country ‘‍schooling’ the public about failing infrastructure. The campaign calls for increase in gas tax.

THE BLADE/DAVE ZAPOTOSKY
Enlarge | Buy This Image

When DeMarco Morris came across the battered old school bus with its front caved in by a large chunk of fallen bridge rock sitting in front of downtown Toledo’s One Government Center, he didn’t bat an eye.

“That’s why they need to do something about all these potholes and old bridges,” the 25-year-old Toledoan said. “That’s why everybody’s cars are in the shop.

“Anyone who’s ever driven on Central [Avenue] under that bridge by Detroit Avenue knows that’s the worst street in Toledo. The [Anthony Wayne] Trail is just as bad. The bridges are dangerous too, because they cross over large bodies of water; if they collapse, we’re going down.”

The battered bus that Mr. Morris was staring at is part of a $1 million public-awareness campaign to pressure Congress to pass a long term, full-investment highway bill to fix failing bridges and crumbling roads, said Richard Greer, spokesman for Laborers’ International Union of North America, which is spearheading the campaign.

“Ten thousand lives are lost every year due to poor road conditions,” Mr. Greer said. “Twenty-five bridges collapse each year. We’re not trying to scare people. We’re trying to get Congress’s attention.”

The problem is that it’s been 20 years since federal motor-fuel taxes, which underwrite the federal Highway Trust Fund, were increased, Mr. Greer said. The current federal gasoline tax is 18.4 cents; the tax on diesel is 24.4 cents.

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Greer

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The public-awareness campaign also includes billboards, radio ads, and public events and activities. The organization encourages people to visit their Web site, fixourbridges.org, to find out how to contact Congress and encourage immediate action to fix America’s crumbling roads and bridges, Mr. Greer said.

Congress already has several options available, including a proposed 12 cent, gas-tax increase or a 15-cent increase that would be implemented in stages over three years, he said.

“We just need someone to do it,” said Mr. Greer, who thinks Congress is putting politics ahead of saving people’s lives.

Mr. Morris agrees that roads and bridges in Toledo are in dire need of repair, but opposes a gas-tax increase.

“We’re already paying too much for gas,” Mr. Morris said. “It’s the city’s responsibility to take care of the roads. They should be able to handle it.”

The public-awareness campaign and the bus were to visit Detroit later Tuesday before heading to Kalamazoo later in the week. The bus, which is traveling throughout the country, started in Wilmington, Del., and crossed Pennsylvania and stopped in Cleveland before visiting Toledo.

Contact Federico Martinez at: fmartinez@theblade.com or 419-724-6154.

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