Rep. Dan Frankel: Bridge collapse symbol of toxic politics, but doesn't have to be – TribLIVE

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As political backdrops go, you can’t beat the collapsed Fern Hollow Bridge.
Visits from politicians may gloss over the terror and bodily injury endured by people driving and riding over the bridge and the fears of the entire neighborhood as the smell of gas filled the air. They may overlook the long-term closure of a critical thoroughfare, which will inconvenience commuters and delay emergency response for thousands of people.
Yet, I welcome the use of our calamity for illustrative purposes.
Come on over, I will meet you there. We can stand on what is now a road to nowhere and look out on the scene of destruction below.
My invitation comes with just one string attached: You must support investment in infrastructure.
Just one week after the catastrophe, candidate for governor Lou Barletta sent out a campaign email blast blaming Democrats for the collapse. That’s right: He wants you to believe that Democrats, who have been blocked from funding infrastructure at every level of government, are responsible for this.
When President Biden secured a deal on a historic measure to begin addressing our crumbling roads and bridges, did Barletta support it? No. He called it a “far-left socialist wish list.”
Working to deliver on much-needed investments to strengthen our long-neglected infrastructure and keep communities safe isn’t a Republican or Democratic problem — it’s an American problem. And for decades, that’s how Congress treated it. Infrastructure was a unifying cause, even as politicians bickered over foreign wars, social issues and taxes. The reliable consensus was that Americans shouldn’t feel scared to cross bridges.
When Barack Obama was president, that consensus — not unlike our roads and bridges — eroded. Republicans proudly announced that they would do everything in their power to block Obama’s agenda, “to kill it, stop it, slow it down.” That may sound like business as usual now, but it was in fact a new frontier in partisanship. If you want to see a visual representation of this partisanship, you can head down Forbes Avenue and take a glance at what happens when no issue is important enough to allow us to work together.
Barletta isn’t the only gubernatorial candidate who attacks infrastructure spending. Biden’s law doesn’t “raid our kids’ pocketbooks,” like Bill McSwain asserts; it keeps us safe by devoting $1.6 billion to help rebuild our 3,353 bridges in need of repair, including the Fern Hollow Bridge. It isn’t “irrational spending,” like Jake Corman says; it’s much-needed spending that will provide at least $100 million to expand broadband — improving the lives of the 394,000 Pennsylvanians who currently don’t have access to the internet. And let’s not forget that it will create tens of thousands of stable, union jobs.
I’m proud to support this vital investment in Pennsylvania communities. While the shocking collapse of our bridge is fresh in our minds, this measure will begin to rebuild our state and is a long-overdue start to making sure the next tragedy doesn’t happen.
So, the offer stands: I will welcome candidates and political leaders to come to my district and take a look at what happens when we can’t agree to maintain the roads and bridges we have. But only if you’re willing to help pay to fix it.
Rep. Dan Frankel represents Pennsylvania’s 23rd District.
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