The Berks-Mont News (

Icedale Road Bridge and Pennsylvania politics

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

It is clear that the people who own and run Jelke’s Fabricating Co. of West Brandywine deserve to be thanked for pitching in to help fix the Icedale Road Bridge and help those who use the span daily get to and from their homes. But what strikes us is that this is not the way that public works in particular, and government in general, is supposed to work.
In the Harrisburg that Thomas Corbett and his Republican allies in the state General Assembly were given to run some years ago, the state Department of Transportation should have been on the case from the get-go, helping the township to rebuild the much-needed bridge as quickly as possible. We’ve heard for years how Republicans, because of their distrust of,and distaste for, government, can actually run it like a business.
But if they could, Jelke would not have had to step in and do what others should have done.
A June 26 letter from PennDOT contracting engineers notified the township that the twin span had failed an inspection and should be closed immediately. The 24 steel support beams needed replacing and are corroded, while resembling “Swiss cheese,” the letter stated. The bridge was closed.
Since the closure, the only other way in or out by road for about 50 Honey Brook Township and 26 West Brandywine homeowners is through the Icedale and Birdell roads intersection which floods regularly and is often impassable. Residents worried that during nasty weather, emergency responders would not be able to reach their homes. And, with the bridge closed, residents were required to detour more than 9 miles round trip to access Horseshoe Road.
Affected residents lobbied the township, state representatives and PennDOT to reach a solution as township officials and workers looked hard for answers. They got little in the way of action, until Jelke stepped in.
Jelke’s regularly works with steel. It will donate the required steel beams and has the required experience to properly handle the project. Jelke’s is also expected to donate about 150 man-hours toward rebuilding the bridge. West Brandywine Supervisor Tom McCaffrey said Thursday that no PennDOT funds will be used for the project since state funding would have come with strings attached. PennDOT would have paid for engineering but the township would have been on the hook for the $1 million to $2 million price tag, while nearly starting from scratch and replacing the bridge to modern standards, said McCaffrey. He also said the permitting process building the bridge to PennDOT standards would have taken up 18 months to two years to complete. “The State of Pennsylvania left us totally alone, without anything,” McCaffrey said,
Supervisor Bill Webb was pleased by Jelke’s offer and said the township didn’t have the money to construct a modern bridge to modern standards and weight limits. “The state wasn’t coming through,” Webb said. “It seemed like we were getting a lot of lip service.”
That’s not the way Republicans in Harrisburg are supposed to treat the people who elected them. But it is.
This editorial appeared in the Sept. 16 edition of the Daily Local News.