Pennsylvania GOP opposed bridge repair funds that could prevent future collapses

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The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation reports 176 bridges in Allegheny County alone are in poor condition.

A Pittsburgh bridge that was known to be in poor condition collapsed on Friday, causing what reports said were "minor injuries" to at least 10 people and sending three of them to the hospital. Although thousands of other Pennsylvania bridges are also reported to be in disrepair, all but one member of the state's GOP congressional delegation voted against approving the funds to fix them.

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, inspection records for the bridge that collapsed had consistently listed its condition as poor since 2011. It was one of 176 county and local bridges in Allegheny County reported by the state Department of Transportation to be in poor condition and one of 3,353 such bridges in the state.

Last year, President Joe Biden signed a bipartisan bill to address these and other transportation safety concerns. The $550 billion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act included $110 billion to repair roads, bridges, and other transportation infrastructure across the country, of which $36.7 billion will be allocated to fund grants for bridge replacement and repair.

Biden had already been scheduled to visit Pittsburgh on Friday to discuss infrastructure and other parts of his agenda.

Pennsylvania Democratic Party spokesperson Jack Doyle tweeted on Friday, "As part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which the GOP #PASEN opposes, Pennsylvania will get $327M for bridge funding this year and $1.6B over the next five years."

Sen. Bob Casey (D) and all nine Democratic Pennsylvania members of the House of Representatives voted to pass the package. Sen. Pat Toomey (R) and eight of the state's nine House Republicans voted no.

Pennsylvania Reps. John Joyce, Fred Keller, Mike Kelly, Daniel Meuser, Scott Perry, Guy Reschenthaler, Lloyd Smucker, and Glenn Thompson were among the 200 House Republicans who voted in November against rebuilding the nation's infrastructure. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick was one of just 13 House Republicans to vote yes.

On Friday, Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey noted that the package will be crucial to funding repairs to other dangerous bridges: "This bipartisan infrastructure law, it is critical to southwest Pennsylvania and the city of Pittsburgh. We know we have bridges that we need to take care of. We're finding out now when the last inspection was and everything. But with him [Biden] coming today, to talk about this infrastructure bill, to discuss why this funding is so important, today is significant."

"This collapse is just the latest in a long line of preventable, man-made disasters that prove what so many of us in Pennsylvania and around the country have been saying for years: Our infrastructure is failing our people," Democratic Pennsylvania Lt. Governor John Fetterman said in a press release.

Noting Biden's infrastructure package, Fetterman tweeted, "I don't know how anyone can look at today's disaster and think we can afford to wait on investing more in infrastructure."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.