Say it ain’t so Irene!

August 31, 2011

Commentary by PHIA

What have we learned from the aftermath of Hurricane Irene?  Answer: the safety and quality of life of Pennsylvanians center on transportation infrastructure.

In the days following Irene, we’ve read numerous news accounts of people without power, public transit systems offline due to flooded rail lines and stations, and inaccessible communities caused by road and bridge closures.  The common thread connecting all these problems is the impact highways, bridges and public transit systems have on our daily lives.  And we take it for granted until something like a natural disaster strikes.

PennDOT recently announced the closing of 38 bridges in the southeast due to hurricane impacts.  Additionally, an entire community was cut off when a bridge on State Route 487 in Sullivan County was destroyed.  Clearly those affected residents know how important infrastructure is to their lives.  The safety and convenience infrastructure provides are now confronting them firsthand.

While little can be done to preserve the infrastructure when a hurricane hits, what does come to light is that our decaying infrastructure cannot withstand these disasters without serious and lasting impacts on our dwindling transportation dollars.  PennDOT will now be forced to shift financial resources from scheduled transportation improvements to fix hurricane related damage.  They have no choice as they struggle to keep highways and bridges safe for the traveling public.

So, as we pick up the pieces from this past week’s storm, Irene will leave lasting effects on Pennsylvania’s highway program at a time when transportation dollars are diminishing due to inflation, reductions in federal funding, rising material costs on the global marketplace, and most of all…a past lack of focus from our elected officials.

Say it ain’t so Irene?  Unfortunately it is.  But, as we head into the fall there is hope on the horizon like the sun after a major storm.  Transportation funding is on everyone’s lips as one of the big issues for Harrisburg’s fall session.  With Governor Corbett’s leadership and the cooperation of Republican and Democrat lawmakers, we can rebuild for the future.

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