Saturday, February 23, 2008

My Weekend Act Of Faith

They (PennDOT, a/k/a/ the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation) just lowered the weight limit again on the Eighth Street Bridge, about ten minutes upriver from us. On a scale of one to a hundred, its safety rating is a two. I guess that means it will crumple slowly enough so we can get across it before the entire bridge collapses into the river.

It’s the way I get to Exeter, which I do twice a week. Why not, for instance, take the Pierce Street Bridge, right here at the foot of the hill by my house? Well, I like the quiet road up this side of the river with its near-total absence of traffic lights. You just sail along, lost in thought, and before you know it, you’re at the bridge and ready to appear on The History Channel’s “Engineering Disasters” series.

The other way, using the Pierce Street Bridge, has traffic, traffic lights, multi-lanes and you have to keep your mind on what you are doing. Also, it lacks the chance that you might end up on the front page of tomorrow’s newspaper.

So I perform my twice-weekly act of faith in PennDOT’s assurances that the bridge is safe. Is it faith, or stupidity? Confidence, or unthinking loyalty to a quiet road? When they keep lowering the weight limit, is that supposed to reassure us? How much should we believe this “it’s ok” stuff when they give it a 2 out of 100 for safety? Exactly how long will it be before we can only ride bikes across it, and one at a time?

It’s got steel trusses all around, like a cage. Try swimming out of that.


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