I was just at the dentist last week having my new bridge installed. The amount of money that it cost was breathtaking. Maybe that’s a bad expression to use under the circumstances.
But it got me thinking as to where the money goes. Of course, it goes to the dentist. It also goes to his staff, who are certainly entitled to earn a living. My dentist pays rent, so the landlord makes a buck. And so do the suppliers of the equipment that my dentist uses, along with the paper supplies, phones, pens, computers, and . . . you get the picture.
Getting this bridge enables me to chew food on the side of my mouth that, for quite a while, had a hole big enough to use a 2-by-4 for floss if I needed it. So yes, I paid good money, but I received value for what I paid. And look at how many people benefited.
So why can’t we do that with Pennsylvania’s bridges?
In a recent edition of the Erie Times-News, I read about the sad state of Pennsylvania bridges. According to the article, the good news is that the number of structurally deficient bridges in Pennsylvania has dropped from about 5,600 in 2010 to about 4,500 now. The reasons for the drop included a bond issue that former Governor Ed Rendell pushed that was dedicated solely to bridges. In addition, federal stimulus money had a major role in helping us fix the bridges.
So here’s the part I don’t get. There are many bridges that are deficient. If there are so many Erie area residents who are unemployed and underemployed including many who presumably would be able to work, and if fixing bridges is something that we should be doing for our safety, and if the borrowing interest rate to get this done is the lowest in memory, and if we, the users of the roads and bridges are willing to pay a few dollars more per year for our driver’s licenses and/or registration fees to guarantee our safety, and if the hiring of the multitudes of people to do the necessary work will result in less poverty in the region, and, and , and. . .
So why does our state Legislature treat the idea of fixing our roads and bridges as if the entire State House and State Senate has to go to the dentist? Now that is something you should chew on.