Portland’s new mass transit bridge is union-built

Putting in rebar on Tilikum CrossingPortland-area union officials toured the new Tilikum Crossing, Bridge of the People, on May 6. Construction on the transit bridge over the Willamette River began July 1, 2011, under a project/community benefits labor agreement with construction unions and general contractor Kiewit Infrastructure West Co.

The unique cable-stayed bridge with two piers in the water is part of TriMet’s Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Transit Project, which will travel 7.3 miles between Portland State University, inner Southeast Portland, and Milwaukie and Oak Grove in north Clackamas County. In addition to carrying light rail trains, streetcars and buses, the bridge’s two 14-foot wide pathways will allow people to commute car-free to work, school and recreation.

To date, the project has logged 1.8 million work-hours and paid out $101 million in wages and fringe benefits to workers. TriMet General Manager Neil McFarlane, who led the tour, said 80 percent of the project’s 500 subcontracts have been let to Oregon companies, with 16 to 17 percent of those to women and minority contractors. Thirteen to 14 percent of the workforce is made up of apprentices in training.

“That equates to 200,000-plus hours of training that is taking place for our future workforce. That’s substantial,” said John Mohlis, executive secretary of the Oregon State Building Trades Council. Joining Mohlis on the tour were Tom Chamberlain, president of the Oregon AFL-CIO; Bob Tackett, executive secretary-treasurer of the Northwest Oregon Labor Council; Joe Esmonde, a union rep for IBEW Local 48; and Willy Myers, executive secretary of the Columbia Pacific Building Trades Council. Esmonde sits on TriMet’s board of directors, and Mohlis is a commissioner on the Portland Development Commission.

McFarlane said the bridge — which is scheduled for completion in September 2015 — is on time and on budget.

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