Allentown blogger Michael Molovinsky has derided bridge repairs, part of what a county government does, as "political patter." So earlier this year, he was quite pleased to report that the Reading Road bridge, an old stone arch bridge, had been "saved" by Commissioners. They balked at the cost of replacing a bridge that had some aesthetic value. PennDOT reacted by ordering the bridge closed. At a news conference yesterday, Republicans were tagged with failing to address the County's crumbling infrastructure.
This news conference was in the middle of the day, making it impossible for me to be there. But I have statements from Democratic candidates running for Lehigh County Commissioner, along with remarks by Executive candidate Tom Muller. I will reach out to get reactions from the GOP, but want you to know what the Democrats say.
Tom Muller: “We cannot afford to have a County Executive who does nothing when faced with failing bridges. ... When businesses refuse to make critical investments they fail. Failure is not an option when it comes to bridges. ... I wish we could be standing here right now doing a ribbon cutting. Instead, PennDot is preparing ‘Bridge Closed’ and detour signs.”
Bill Leiner: “Tom Creighton has a terrible record when it comes to ensuring safe bridges in Lehigh County. ... During my previous term as County Commissioner, Lehigh County established a reputation for sound and effective investment to ensure that our bridges were safe. ... Not only did Tom Creighton fail Lehigh County by neglecting the Reading Road Bridge, he failed the residents of his district by neglecting to take action on the Bittner’s Bridge in Lowhill Township. ... Lehigh County cannot afford four more years of Tom Creighton.” Leiner pointed to Creighton’s March 14, 2012 vote against funding and subsequent non action on June 27, 2012 as evidence of Creighton’s record of neglect.
Wesley Barrett: "What we need is a commissioner who is able to balance the interest of the people with the need to make smart decisions. Not someone with a political agenda out to score a few votes. ... Lehigh County should not be in the business of closing bridges. Now, because of this mismanagement, Lehigh County residents face not only more congested roads but have compromised the safety of our residents and specifically the families of the elementary school one block down the street. The role of government is not to play politics to win votes - it's to protect the people you server - even when that decision is challenging and sometime unpopular."
Susan Wild: "We cannot wait until a bridge has been closed by PennDot—or worse yet, collapse—to fix our bridges. ... Lehigh County residents and business owners count on the Commissioners to maintain our bridges. My opponent cannot seem to be convinced. ... Engineering reports, warnings from county lawyers, warnings from the Director of General Services and architects calling for structural evaluations could not get Percy Dougherty to act on the Reading Road Bridge. ... It is really unfortunate that PennDot had to step in and decide to close the bridge before Percy Dougherty could even be convinced of the need for funding.”
Geoff Brace: “In local government, there should not be a Republican way or a Democratic way to maintain bridges. ... Unfortunately, since the last election, it appears that the Republicans way to maintain bridges in Lehigh County is simply to ignore the bridges while they deteriorate. We need to return to the Lehigh County way, which is smart, strategic and responsible. ... Do not be fooled by the claim that commissioners were trying to save the bridge from demolition in an attempt to preserve the historic landmark. ... Commissioners have had since March 2012 to craft a plan that would repair the bridge to ensure its adequate preservation. They sat silently and did not act.”
Blogger's Note: Excellent photos of the bridge are on Molovinsky's blog.