Musings: A hole in the head

It was about 15 years ago when PennDOT declared the Station Way Road Bridge in Chadds Ford Township unsafe. The state had to go through its bureaucratic checklist before work could begin, and that would take time. Creek Road was closed at Station Way and it could have been months or more, before it would reopen.

The projected timeline was long enough for former Supervisors' Chairman Jim Shipley to say during a supervisors' meeting that maybe a few guys from Chadds Ford Township should get together and fix it themselves, without waiting for the state.

It was an understandable position to take, and a popular one, too, in a populist kind of way. I understood it and appreciated the emotion behind the desire to get the job done quickly. But, as I wrote in an editorial in the old Chadds Ford Post at the time, we live in an incredibly litigious society, perhaps the most litigious in the history of the planet. So, I wrote, let the state do what it has to do to get the bridge repaired so that the township wouldn't be sued if anything went wrong.

Heyburn Road in Chadds Ford Township remains closed because the northbound lane collapsed when a culvert failed.

As it turned out, the state eventually did something good. PennDOT fast-tracked the letting process and put incentives into a contract, so crews finished the work and reopened the bridge in about a month, instead of the year previously thought.

But now there's a hole in Heyburn Road, just down from Route 1, because a culvert eroded and the northbound lane collapsed. It was no surprise to people. The problem has cropped up before, and the road was patched several times. Resident Bruce Prabel has been warning the township for years that it was going to get worse. And he was correct.

Now the township began acting on this last year when it went to the state to get a permit to repair the culvert and fix the road. That was in September but to no avail. Township Manager Amanda Serock said The Department of Environmental Protection decided the situation was not an emergency. So now there's a hole in the road because the state has a hole in its head.

But bureaucratic idiocy isn't limited to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania or even the United States. Our very polite neighbor to the north can be just as bad.

Some stairs collapsed in Tom Riley Park, and some people fell. The city of Toronto estimated new stairs would cost a minimum of $65,000, possibly as much as $150,000.

Enter Adi Asti, a retired mechanic. He angered Toronto officials. How? Easily. He rebuilt the stairs with the help of a homeless man he hired for the job. The two men built the eight steps for a whopping cost of $550 and did so "in a matter of hours," CTV News said.

The good news is that Toronto hasn't fined Asti or charged him with any crime. The bad news is that the city roped off the stairs and won't let anyone use them until officials figure out what to do. (Hint: Thank the guy for doing what he did and let people use the steps.)

According to Toronto Mayor John Tory, "We just can't have people decide to go out to Home Depot and build a staircase in a park because that's what they would like to have."

I guess statute trumps safety as well as sanity. But that's what happens when a government, or government agency, has a hole in its head. Voluntarily doing something nondestructive to keep your neighbors safe is a no-no.

Yes, I'm biased, as most people know. I think the less government, the better. Where government should come in is for the protection of liberty for the individual. Once it goes beyond that, it becomes easy to fall off a bureaucratic cliff or down eight steps in a public park. Or bust an axle on a Pennsylvania roadway.

Chadds Ford Township closed Heyburn Road last Monday, July 24, and Heyburn remains closed with no word yet from the state as to when work can begin. Let's hope DEP gets its act together soon. Holes, be they in roads or heads, get worse over time unless issues are properly addressed.

 

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About Rich Schwartzman

Rich Schwartzman has been reporting on events in the greater Chadds Ford area since September 2001 when he became the founding editor of The Chadds Ford Post. In April 2009 he became managing editor of ChaddsFordLive. He is also an award-winning photographer.

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