Friday, September 27, 2013

Lehigh County's Crumbling Bridges Blamed on GOP Comm'rs

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.


Anonymous said...

The bridge is being downgraded to closing because of the politics in Harrisburg related to passing a transportation bill.

So the response of these local candidates is to play politics with the bridge at the local level?


Anonymous said...

Yes and all those democrats are salivating because now they can raise the taxes to fund their big government ideas. There would be money to fix the bridges if they wouldn't have created the welfare state we now find ourselves in.

michael molovinsky said...

bernie, nothing has changed about the bridge, except penndot's guidelines. those bridges with a 3 ton limit have now been changed to closed status. the same status change affects schriebers bridge in lehigh parkway, which has been carrying all the traffic for the closed 15th street. the beating it has taken is testimony to the strength of these stone arches. it's sad to see these candidates take advantage of the situation, they should be defending our historical heritage. it's especially sad to see geoff brace lower himself. he knows that preparing an alternative plan for preserving the bridge was a function of the the administration and the county project manager, not the commissioners.

Anonymous said...

Isn't Geoff Brace part of Rep. Schlossberg's staff? Isn't he also the former Kutztown manager?

Parthenology said...

mm/bo - most pols are whores to whatever is the subject of reaction of the day.

Both sides of the aisle have lost their way. neither understand being proactive, the art of compromise or good old common sense.

They have forgotten the masses and only think of themselves.

the cancer of going for the vote vice doing the right thing has spread from local government to the feds. American democracy is dying a slow and painful death.

Anonymous said...

MM et al: while it is fun and often correct to blame all of PA's problems on Tom Corbett and his administration, Tom Corbett isn't responsible for passing a simple motion to authorize engineering work to either replace the bridge or repair it. The commissioners are responsible for that simple task. Commissioners, on weds could pass a motion authorizing funding for engineering costs and restricted the work to rehabilitation. One motion; simple majority. The money was allocated years ago. In March 2012, the motioned to table. In June 2012, they didn't even make a motion. Since then, nothing.

MM lets defend our heritage. 380k to rehab the bridge. push the commissioners at an upcoming meeting to authorize engineering costs to accomplish that task. Doing so, they could obligate the administration to act. but the R's don't want to spend money.

It could have been done by now.

michael molovinsky said...

@6:43, i agree it appears that is the course that must now be taken. i do not believe that glen solt has been an honest broker of information. after cunningham replaced 7 bridges that were deemed insufficient in 2005, solt went on to replace 7 more, with plans for an additional 3. he appears to have gone into the bridge business. his proposals state that replacing the bridge would take only half as long as repairing it, and cost only twice as much. his statements that after repair, a storm or two could destroy the bridge are beyond belief, especially since the bridge has weathered storms for almost two hundred years. his statement that a new bridge wouldn't need maintenance and last 100 years also lacks credibility, as he does frankly. meanwhile, he hasn't even painted the rusting beam on the companion pedestrian span, or sealed the bridge.

michael molovinsky said...

in linking to this post today from my blog, i have referred to it as misinformed for two reasons; i didn't object to bridges being repaired, i objected to a very significant historic bridge being unnecessarily replaced. penndot's action to order the bridge closed had nothing to do with any previous action or inaction by the commissioners, but was a state wide change of policy in regard to weight limited bridges.

Anonymous said...

It's sad that we are more concerned with keeping taxes low than keeping our citizenry safe.

michael molovinsky said...

@8;37, there was never anything said about the bridge not being safe. penndot has NOT reinspected the bridge and made a new determination., they simply changed 3ton limits to closures, as a policy change. it was disingenuous of the candidates yesterday, and disingenuous of you, but you know that.

Bernie O'Hare said...

MM on 1/25/13; "Part of Don Cunningham's political patter as a candidate and elected official is repairing or replacing bridges in the county."

MM today: "i didn't object to bridges being repaired,"

I think you did, especially when Cunningham was the repairer. That's what you said.

Anonymous said...

MM... it has been reinspected. in 4/2012. At that time the state put the county on notice of a long list of issues. And penndot hasn't changed any policies on bridges. These limits were in place b/c of safety concerns. If nothing was done, the bridges are being closed. Now, go to the next meeting and tell the commissioners to spend 50-100k on engineering and then 380k to fix the bridge to save it. See if Ott/Schware vote for it.

You wanted it saved. Now, prevent it from becoming a monument for neglect. Ott/Schware need to step up... my guess, they leave you high and dry and either do nothing or vote to rip it out.

michael molovinsky said...

bernie, i believe that you are taking me out of context,my entire quote:Part of Don Cunningham's political patter as a candidate and elected official is repairing or replacing bridges in the county. When you replace a bridge which doesn't need replacing, you're wasting taxpayer money. When you replace a historic bridge which doesn't need replacing, you're stealing our culture although i did use the word "repair" my emphasis was on unnecessary replacements. i have always been an advocate for maintenance of historic structures. my advocacy is based on the structures, not political considerations.

anonymous @10:37, the bridge has been neglected, by glen solt. he has allowed the pedestrian steel beam to rust for years. he has not sealed the bridge for years. he has submitted it to neglect because he planned on replacing it, long before any state mandates. btw, how pathetic of you to state dates and figures, but not sign your name. i WILL ask the commissioners to authorize repair costs. how strange that engineering for repairs cost 100k, but engineering for a new bridge costs 50k. maybe that's why solt is so doubted

Anonymous said...

MM: engineering for rehab is more intensive than engineering for new construction. New construction starts with a blank slate. rehab has more detailing. The engineer would have to physically determine every detail of the existing structure. It will take more time to engineer. Hence the increase cost.

Solt couldn't do anything without commissioner authorization. He couldn't buy a bucket of paint unless directed. Still waiting for the commissioners to make ANY kind of directive.

Dates and figures are in the minutes, available on the commissioner website. Anybody can access them. You were even at one of the meetings when the 4/2012 study was reviewed by commissioners.

And the state mandates on teh bridge have existed for decades. Weight limits are nothing new.

Anonymous said...

Solt and the Administration, including times when Tom Muller was acting Executive, could have put forth a bill to fund the repair/rehab of the bridge that would have sailed through the Board of Commissioners.

The move to table the REPLACEMENT bill was overwhelming, bipartisan, and a clear indication that the Board favored rehab/repair. Were it not for stubbornness on the part of Solt and Muller, a plan to repair or rehab the bridge would already be in place.

For Muller to try to distance himself from responsibility is the lowest form of politics. Shame on the other candidates for stooping to Muller's level.

michael molovinsky said...

@12:23, what is new and the relevant point, is now the state has said that the 3 ton limit bridges go on the "to close" list. you have been disingenuous and part of this opportunistic/politicalization of our historic bridge. the beating that schreibers bridge has endured from tractor trailers is testimony to the stoutness of these bridges.

Anonymous said...

"The move to table the REPLACEMENT bill was overwhelming, bipartisan, and a clear indication that the Board favored rehab/repair. Were it not for stubbornness on the part of Solt and Muller, a plan to repair or rehab the bridge would already be in place."

Pass the buck: a motion to table is a motion to do nothing. pass a motion to compell the administration to act. stop passing the buck.

rhondavw said...

Hi Bernie,

These Earth-friendly composite bridge beams would provide Lehigh Valley with low-maintenance, 100+ year structures:

Dennis P said...

Things to know --- Geoff Brace will be elected to the Board of County Commissioners in November ... He is unopposed ...County Commissioners have always shown disagreement whether to repair or rebuilt bridges ... Case of the Linden Street Bridge in Allentown ... And finally, humans must stop bringing on Global warming according to a UN report ... Meaning ... The US must dismantle its interstate highway system and all Bridges ... Individuals can not be allowed the luxury and freedom of driving their own cars ... I don't agree but that's what the world wants ... More regulation and control ...