Jennifer D. Wade Journal

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We're Number One!

But, it's not exactly something to be proud of.  In the wake of the bridge collapse in Minnesota, Gov. Rendell announced that Pennsylvania has the highest number of bridges considered "structually deficient" in the U.S. - somewhere in the neighborhood of 6,000.  Our bridges are also older, on average, than bridges around the country.  50.5 years here; about 39 years is the national average. 

In the land of bridges, "structurally deficient" means that there is some level of deterioration.  But, it does not mean that the bridge is unsafe.  Still, the term does not exactly inspire confidence, especially when PennDOT seems to be making "emergency repairs" on some bridge or other every few days or so.  Also kind of frightening is getting a look from above at all the patchwork on many bridge decks around here.  Some have been patched so often that there's hardly any original concrete left!

What to do?  Well, raising revenue by turning Interstate 80 into a toll road is one idea, but quite a lot of people seem to feel that it's certainly not the best idea.  In fact, one of the congressmen fighting the tolls is quoted in THIS newspaper article as saying that, in terms of getting highway funding from Washington, Pennsylvania is "winning" and, basically, he can't see where there's a shortfall in Pennsylvania's highway fund or why state officials say they need more money.  I would refer him to the paragraph above.

For a while, I wasn't even sure that this plan to put tolls on 80 was actually intended to be taken seriously - considering that it's never gone anywhere in the past.  I thought maybe it was just a bargaining chip to get the budget passed and that leasing the turnpike was the ultimate end game.  But now, I think it is a serious plan; there's too much angst and bluster out there to believe otherwise.

Will there be tolls on I-80?  Will the turnpike be leased?  Will we end up with both?  Or neither?  I don't know.  I have no idea where all this is going.  I just hope it goes somewhere before what happened in Minnesota happens here.

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