Engineer Thinks PennDOT and Its New I-95 Ramps Suck

Charles Marohn—a Professional Engineer from Minnesota—recently took to the blog Strong Towns to skewer the New I-95/Commodore Barry Bridge ramps proposal that earned PennDOT local accolades. Marohn suggests that the economic investment that will be required of each household in Chester makes the venture irrational.

This is fantasy. A very expensive gimmick that is not only wasting a lot of money, but is diverting the energies, hopes and dreams of a city of 34,000 — a city that lost 8% of its population over the last decade — from things that could actually help them become a strong town. The median household income in Chester is $25,294, half the state average $49,520. The median house value is just over $66,000 compared to $165,000 statewide. It is insulting to even suggest that this city needs a soccer stadium, a casino and a place to park their boat. How many gold coins do the people of Chester posess among them? Heck, how many of them can even afford to drive?

Additionally, Marohn posits that the plan wouldn’t work anyway, because it predicts that the ramps will revitalized the shoreline in Chester and, simply put, the shoreline is beyond any re-invigoration that might come from moving the ramps half a mile.

Okay, so now there is direct access to the waterfront. My assumption — based on this huge, redundant investment — was that this must be some shoreline. The development there must be very impressive indeed.

Well, not exactly. While there is a stadium — the universal sign of desperation in economic development – here’s what else appears to be there: a solid waste facility, numerous scrap facilities, a paper company, what looks like a sewage treatment plant, a couple of industrial sites dealing with metals and plastics…

He also calls out PennDOT for allotting $77 million for unnecessary ramps when it owns the top spot on the list of DOTs with the most deficient bridges.

But it gets worse. While PennDOT is gloating over their two awards for these ramps, they rank #1 in the country for having bridges that are structurally deficient. That is not #1 as in the best but #1 as in the worst. THE WORST. Pennsylvania’s DOT, which just spent $77 million on two new ramps half a mile from two existing ramps, has 5,906 structurally deficient bridges that together carry nearly 23 million cars per day. More than one out of every four bridges in Pennsylvania is structurally deficient.

Basically, he’s saying that PennDOT sucks and these ramps are just the latest proof of that. [Strong Towns]