A bridge too far: Casey's plan on infrastructure funding is misguided

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It's easy to make the argument that Pennsylvania needs more money to fix its deteriorating bridges because it does.

The American Society of Civil Engineers found that one of every four bridges in the state is structurally deficient, 19 percent of them are functionally obsolete and the problem is acute in southwestern Pennsylvania. Among the state's 67 counties, Allegheny County has the dubious distinction of ranking first with the greatest number of deficient bridges, 292 spans that are crossed each day by 1.9 million vehicles. In Fayette and Washington counties, one-third of the bridges are subpar.

It's going to take a lot of money to fix all those bridges, and lawmakers from the state have been pushing for desperately needed transportation funding in Washington. Democratic Sen. Bob Casey is among them, but a related proposal he announced last week is misdirected.

Mr. Casey and Missouri Republican Sen. Roy Blunt want Congress to alter the formula for allocating federal surface transportation dollars so that 25 percent of the total would have to be used to repair deficient bridges owned by counties and municipalities. The requirement under law is 15 percent, although the senators won a one-year revision last year that temporarily set it at 25 percent.

Here's the problem. The measure doesn't mean more transportation dollars; it just means more transportation dollars going to bridges. So while this measure would allow both senators from districts where bridges are in bad shape to provide more money toward their repair, there is a down side.

Or, as the Associated Pennsylvania Constructors rightly said of this measure, it represents "robbing Peter to pay Paul." The real problem that needs solving is that there isn't enough money to repair bridges without harming efforts to keep roads and highways in adequate shape, too.

Congress -- and state legislators who have failed to approve a new transportation funding plan -- should concentrate on providing more of the help that Pennsylvania needs to make its roads and bridges safe.



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