Standing before the Veterans Memorial Bridge in New Milford, U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy warned recently cuts to federal transportation funding could jeopardize public safety and cost jobs.

Congressman Murphy, D-5th District, said the local bridge is one of more than 1,700 in the state rated either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.

The bridge is slated for repair in the spring, but the congressman said proposed cuts before the U.S. Senate could reduce federal funding by as much as one-third, which might mean dozens of bridges in the state won't get the attention they need.

"We need money from Washington now to fix these bridges," Congressman Murphy said, "to make them safer for motorists and pedestrians."

In addition to, he remarked, transportation infrastructure dollars from Washington would also help grow jobs in a construction industry that's experiencing an unemployment rate as high as 30 percent.

"Construction workers can't go another year without jobs," he said.

The congressman added, while he would like to see a significant increase in transportation dollars from Washington, that's not likely to happen, given the political climate in the nation's capital.

Connecticut does well, Congressman Murphy said, given it receives $1.60 in federal transportation funding for every $1 of gas tax sent by the state to Washington.

He stressed, however, the state also has some of the oldest bridges in the country.

Donald Shubert, president of the Connecticut Construction Industries Association, thanked the congressman during the news conference for bringing attention to the bridges.

"The condition of our bridges is something the average commuter hardly notices or thinks about," Mr. Shubert said. "Not to mention the 450,000 students who are transported in school buses every day."

Nate Brown, the International Union of Operating Engineers representative who also attended the event, said as many as 600 of the union's 3,200 workers are without work at any given time.

"Many of the guys who used to work eight or 10 months out of the year are now only working two or three months," he said.

"Not acting on this now or cutting the funding is no way to grow the economy or jobs," Mr. Brown said. "These problems are fixable. Let's get people back to work."

Chris Bachant, a Waterford resident and union carpenter who was one of several dozen people to attend the event, said "things are very tough right now" in the construction industry.

"It's fantastic what (Congressman) Murphy is promoting," Mr. Bachant said. "But I think we need to go one step further and make sure that local people are hired for these jobs."

A recent bridge construction project near his home, Mr. Bachant said, was awarded to a company from Minnesota.

"If we have to pay state prevailing wages, then state residents should get the jobs," he said.