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Labor Alliance Assails Use of Chinese Steel in Bay Bridge

Group paid for billboard at toll plaza.

A group based in Washington, D.C., that represents manufacturers and steel workers unveiled two billboards today that criticize the use of steel from China for parts of the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge.

"It was a stupid, shortsighted decision" to use steel from China for the bridge project, said Scott Paul, the executive director of the Alliance for American Manufacturing. Had Caltrans had used steel from the U.S., thousands of jobs would have been created for American workers, he said.

One of the signs is east of the Bay Bridge toll plaza and the other is off Interstate Highway 880 near High Street in Oakland. The billboards feature a bright red Chinese flag and say, "The Bay Bridge 100 percent foreign steel" and include the alliance's website.

Paul said the alliance's "Should Be Made in America" campaign is aimed at sparking changes in federal, state, and local procurement policies. The U.S. needs to repair trillions of dollars in crumbling infrastructure over the next decade, including nearly $500 billion worth in California alone, he said, adding that the most effective boost to the U.S. economy would be to ensure that U.S. firms are given the work whenever permissible under existing trade obligations.

Twenty states are either considering, or have recently passed, legislation to provide preferences for American steel and manufactured goods in state-level procurement.

But a spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, which helped coordinate funding for the Bay Bridge work, said the billboards have misleading information. Seventy-six percent of the steel used for the new eastern span was fabricated in the U.S., and the only portion using steel from China is the self-anchored suspension span, which is 2,047 feet long, said John Goodwin.

ZPMC, a company with a factory in Shanghai, was chosen because no American companies had the capacity to provide the steel needed for the span, said Caltrans spokesman Bart Ney.

Thelabor alliance supports federal legislation that would strengthen "buy America" requirements for transportation and infrastructure projects. But Randal O'Toole, a transportation expert for the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank based in Washington, D.C., said such requirements "only make infrastructure more expensive and therefore make infrastructure spending less effective."

-- Bay City News

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