On Thursday evening, January 5, 2012, I attended the informational presentation by the PA Dept. of Transportation regarding the Tom McCall Bridge project. After attending the meeting I have come to the conclusion that our local and state government leaders and the hired bureaucrats are totally clueless as to the needs of our county infrastructure.
The proverbial tail (the bureaucrats and hired help) continues to wag the dog (the local citizens). Our paid leaders and bureaucrats continue to decide on what we should purchase with our tax revenues without our input into the projects. They continue to have closed door meetings, excluding the public and driving projects almost to the point of no return.
After the public meeting I spoke to the PennDOT project manager, who is also the project manager for the Route 903 Jim Thorpe Bridge. She stated that in her "professional" opinion, which I do not agree with, the McCall Bridge problem is best solved by a rehabilitation of the present bridge at an estimated cost of between 12 and 20 million dollars. I totally agree with Borough of Lehighton elected councilmember, Grant Hunsicker. Mr. Hunsicker stated that the cost of rehabilitation should be invested in a new bridge and this must be the project that we the citizens choose to solve the bridge and traffic problems.
The project manager also stated that a new Jim Thorpe bridge, costing approximately 90 million dollars is the correct first project to undertake. The new bridge in Jim Thorpe will be located across the Lehigh River connecting Front and North Streets with PA Route 209 at a point halfway between the Liberties intersection and the west end of the present bridge. She stated that in her "professional" opinion, this is the best solution to the bridge and traffic problem in the Borough of Jim Thorpe. Again the tail is wagging the dog and the cart is being put before the horse.
In my opinion there should be two new bridges built. The first is a lower in height above the river bridge which connects PA Routes 248 and 209 with the existing new road (Lehigh Drive), which is located on the rail bed connecting Maiden Lane with the Sewer Plant on the Mahoning Creek via the new Lehigh Drive road. This new bridge would also serve Weissport, thus only one bridge across the Lehigh River will be needed in the Lehighton/ Weissport area. After the new bridge is built, both existing bridges could be removed and the lower cost of maintaining two older bridges will be saved.
The second should be a less expensive bridge. It should be the same height above the river as the present bridge in Jim Thorpe and located next to and southeast of the present bridge. Because of its location, the new proposed high above the river bridge in Jim Thorpe will not be used as a walk way in the borough going from the east side to the west side of the river.
Also this proposed high above the river bridge will not solve any traffic problems in Jim Thorpe and will make it less convenient to travel by vehicle and foot between the east and west sides of the river. A new low above the river bridge next to the present bridge will be less expensive and the funds saved could be applied to the new bridge in Lehighton/Weissport.
I do not know where the project manager lives or lived in the past, but she is uneducated and informed to the traffic problems in the Jim Thorpe and Lehighton Boroughs. This does not excuse our local, county and state elected officials for going along with these two severely flawed bridge projects. Both of the present bridge projects should be scrapped before we invest precious additional money/public funds in patch and bad design bridge projects.
Gerald "Jerry" Strubinger,
of our Carbon County