Casey, Cartwright call for funds for infrastructure, Solomon Creek Wall
The Times Leader
The bridge building U.S. Sen Bob Casey spoke about Thursday had as much to do with politics as infrastructure.
The Democrat from Scranton expressed a willingness to work with President Donald Trump on keeping his campaign promise to invest a trillion dollars to repair the nation’s roads and bridges with the hope that a portion of that money goes to the Solomon Creek wall project.
“I’ve got more optimism that both the House and the Senate and the White House can work together on infrastructure than I have on any other issue, without a doubt. Nothing is even close,” Casey said.
Following his party’s line Casey opposed Trump’s choice for the U.S. Supreme Court, Judge Neil Gorsuch, who was eventually confirmed and appointed, and has had little agreement with the Republican in the White House.
But Casey spoke of possible collaboration as he stood on the Barney Street bridge over the creek in South Wilkes-Barre in nearly the same spot from his visit in December after a portion of the wall collapsed and Mayor Tony George put out an emergency call for help. The mayor and others sang a different tune this time when they delivered a rendition of “Happy Birthday” to Casey who turned 57 Thursday.
The stakes are too high to do nothing or let the much needed repairs go undone due to partisan gridlock, he pointed out. “Because look, both sides know we have to do this,” Casey said. “Both sides know either invest now or pay later. It’s as simple as that.”
Trump has yet to put his infrastructure plan up for consideration by legislators and, according to a report Wednesday from The Hill, is considering whether to introduce it as standalone piece or include it with other proposed legislation. Democrats presented a plan in January that would match Trump’s and create an estimated 15 million jobs.
Casey found support from U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Moosic, in his demand that Trump honor his promise. Cartwright, whose district includes Wilkes-Barre, also joined Casey in calling for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to take another look at the creek flood protection project. The Army Corps of Engineers determined the cost, estimated at $15 million in 1998 when the project was first authorized, outweighed the benefits and wouldn’t include it in its list of projects.
Cartwright, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, blasted the President’s budget that cut $1 billion from the the Army Corps of Engineers. The lawmaker said the committee won’t make the nearly 15 percent reduction.
“I call upon him now to revisit this question of funding with robust money the Army Corps of Engineers,” Cartwright said. He described “robust” as doubling the corps’ 2018 proposed $5 billion budget.
Taxpayers end up paying for flood cleanups and rebuilding communities through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Cartwright added.
“We want to avoid being penny wise and pound foolish. And I think that’s what were being if we just let FEMA cleanup these messes that could have been prevented,” he said.
Instead of waiting for Washington, D.C., to come through, the city has begun efforts to secure $5.5 million to pay for repairs to sections of the wall between the bridges on Regent, Barney and Waller streets. City council approved the first of two readings of an ordinance for a bond package that includes the repairs.
“Right now we’re piecemealing it,” said George. “If that’s the only way to get it done, that’s the way we’ll get it done.”
Since 1975 Tony Glazenski has lived along the creek on South Franklin Street, and the mason said he repaired the wall on his own and for the city.
“We patched a lot of holes that blew out on the wall. We saved a lot of homes from flooding,” Glazenski, 68, said.
He was happy to see that the wall was getting the attention of the lawmakers. “It’s just a matter of time. Band-Aids don’t help any more,” Glazenski said.