Machinists honored for South Park Bridge efforts
SEATTLE — A Machinists Union staff member and two retired union activists were among those honored Monday night as Seattle’s South Park community celebrated the announcement that King County is set to open the bids for replacing the now-closed South Park Bridge.
The county plans a groundbreaking ceremony for the new bridge project on May 5, said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “I look forward to seeing everybody for the most-festive Cinco de Mayo ribbon cutting ever,” he said.
Earlier in the evening, Constantine had presented trophies to dozens of South Park community activists for their role in helping to secure the $138 million in local and federal funds needed to replace the former bridge, which was closed for safety reasons in June 2010.
Among them were Larry Johnson, the legislative and political director for Machinists Union District Lodge 751, who was co-chairman of the New South Park Bridge Coalition. An award also went to John and Robin Guevarra, two members of the District 751 Retired Club who were active in the South Park Bridge campaign.
Tim Lane, the King County engineer who is project manager for the bridge replacement, credited the community activists for securing the funding after nearly 12 years of failed attempts.
“You wrote the letters,” Lane said. “You made the phone calls. You pumped some hands and you talked to the right people.”
The bridge was already more than 70 years old when it was damaged in the Nisqually Earthquake of 2001, and engineers determined it was unsafe to keep it open. However, various efforts to find funds for a new bridge failed, and in the spring of 2010, the county announced the bridge had to be closed.
At that point, District 751 became involved. The bridge was a key link between the Boeing Co.’s factories at Boeing Field and storage facilities on the west bank of the Duwamish River, noted District President Tom Wroblewski. It was also used by many Boeing employees commuting to their jobs at Boeing Field, as well as District 751 members who attend meetings at the union’s main hall in South Park.
In October, after a coalition of state and local government agencies had agreed to put up the bulk of the funds, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray announced that the Obama administration had agreed to provide the last $34 million in economic stimulus funds needed to rebuild the bridge.
On Monday, King County officials announced that they’d received the final permits needed to proceed with the construction project, and planned to open bids the following day. That sparked a round of cheers from community activists who had gathered at the Machinists Union Hall for the awards celebration, which included ethnic music and dancing, and food donated by South Park restaurants.
“You’re going to get a real centerpiece for this community, a real landmark,” Lane promised. “Thank you for being with us.”
Construction is expected to start this year and stretch into 2013.
Originally formed in Seattle in 1935 to represent hourly workers at Boeing, Machinists Union District Lodge 751 now represents more than 26,500 workers at 44 employers across Washington, Oregon and California. In 2010, District 751 members donated nearly 6,200 hours of volunteer community service as well as more than $276,000 to Guide Dogs of America, the union’s charity of choice.
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