By Jim Lane
DALLAS -- A giant construction project for a bridge across the Trinity River is costing a fortune, helping no one, and may not go anywhere. On November 5, the WFAA-TV News Department revealed that the general contractor, Italian firm, Cimolai, had circumvented U.S. immigration laws to bring in their own low-paid workforce in spite of raging local unemployment. Dallas construction workers are furious, and the President of the Texas AFL-CIO is demanding an investigation!
Construction workers can take American jobs with H2-B visas after meeting strict requirements, including a general search for available local workers. But the Texas Department of Transportation apparently allowed Cimolai to use another kind of labor law, B-1 visas, which allow foreign contractors to use their own employees for technicalinstallations. Part of the problem, the TV news revealed, is that construction workers are specifically prohibited under B-1 laws! The Italians are in Dallas illegally, and the State of Texas is apparently complicit in breaking the federal laws protecting workers!
The TV news crews alleged that similar crooked schemes may be taking American jobs in construction projects across the nation!
Dallasites don’t know whether to scream or cry every time they hear about bridge construction across the Trinity. Part of the snow-job they received when they voted billions in bond money for the “Trinity River Project” included pretty pictures of sailboats, riverwalks, and beautiful bridges designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. Soon after the elections were over, they learned that the real scheme was to build giant superhighways on both levees. The entire river bottom is barely wide enough for the projected umpteen lanes of noisy, stinky, pavement!
Almost as quickly, the Army Corps of Engineers, still touchy after letting New Orleans drown, announced that the levees wouldn’t hold all that traffic and still stop floods, so the Trinity River Project is, for the time being, stalled.
By then, the first of the fancy bridges, to be named after oil heiress Margaret Hunt Hill, was already started by the Italians. People drive by the site on the old Continental Bridge, which is plain but functionable, and wonder where the wondrous Calatrava Bridge will go, if anywhere.
The Trinity River Project, during the city’s sales pitch, was supposed to provide great revenue and good jobs for local construction workers.
The Margaret Hunt Hill bridge may carry heavy traffic across the Trinity River into Dallas. Or not