Denver PA’s 5th street bridge: “You didn’t build that.”

A hyper-local post.

Along a walk recently, I saw a sign posted near a Pennsylvania Turnpike bridge, rallying people in a neighborhood to speak up about the possible loss of a bridge over the highway. It was along the lines of, “Help stop the Turnpike from taking this bridge away!” Then, later, came meeting information.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike cuts through the tiny borough of Denver (population about 3,300). There are two bridges in a row that, I am told, date from the opening of the highway in the late 1940s. It turns out that one of the two bridges was used for agriculture during its first decade or two of existence. The bridges were negotiated by a 1940s borough council, because the turnpike was going to bisect the borough. This was at a time when Denver Borough was one of the, if not the, significant population centers north of Ephrata in the county.

It sounds like someone with an Excel spreadsheet in Harrisburg looked at two bridges, side by side, in a small borough, and decided that it was a place to save money. Republicans make fun of President Obama, when he mentioned about how we use roads and bridges that we, ourselves, did not build. But it seems like this Republican-run state has no problem screwing around with small communities and their long-enjoyed amenities under the theory that “you didn’t build that. Someone else made that happen.”

I suppose it’s a point well taken, that, in fact, we use and enjoy a lot of things that we don’t directly pay for. That was the President’s point. Someone before us thought it would be a good idea to have an infrastructure and an education system. And a military. And to put a few flags on the moon. The Republican Party, which used to be really BIG on infrastructure, seems to have forgotten this.

What surprises me is that that forgetfulness hasn’t caught up with the everyday public. They seem to think that the contemporary Republican Party is still “watching out for” them. But that is all an aside. It’s pretty clear that, today’s “waste finders” will point to other people and places before the election (2010), and then, (now), turn around and go, “oh look! We can save something here!” when it’s a small borough. (Just wait ’til they start coming for your “wasteful” Medicare.)

I went to the meeting advertised on the sign. My input was to ask whether the Borough Council was aware that some Turnpike toll money is, by law, diverted to projects that have nothing to do with the Turnpike. Some did know. In fact, $3.4 billion has been used for these non-Turnpike projects.

To me, a big issue—besides how the bridge got there in the first place–was why the Turnpike Commission was asking locals, who have to use the highway and pay the tolls, to do without, when they pay money to support other areas’ roads and bridge projects. Those other areas aren’t paying for them. Our tolls are.

[Update: LancasterOnline coverage of the borough council meeting. “Borough”, if you haven’t figured out, is like a village. This is a common use in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.]

[Update 8/1/12: View of the 5th Street bridge from the 6th Street bridge:

What you are looking at in the background is East Cocalico Mountain. Legend says that “cocalico” is from the Lenni Lenape (American Indian) language.]