Mar 12, 2012

Governance by Misinformation

Donald Cunningham is so hell bent on fulfilling his 2005 campaign pledge to replace the bridges, that he is providing false information to the County Commissioners.Glenn Solt is so tormented about the Mickley Bridge failure in Whitehall, that he tells reporters that all stone arch bridges are filled with junk and crap.
"There's nothing better than opening a bridge," said County Capital Projects Manager Glenn Solt, June 1, 2006
Cunningham told Samantha Marcus, of The Morning Call, that regardless of the bridge's fate, the county will likely have to close down the pedestrian walkway, which was added in 1980. Apart from the oversized I- Beams badly needing paint, which is actually negligence by Cunningham and Solt, the pedestrian bridge could support elephants all day long. If it were a little wider, it could support army tanks all day long. It's three piers and concrete walkway are in perfect shape. I also question the traffic count associated with the bridge. According to Cunningham and Solt it's 2,600 vehicles a day, which would be more than 100 an hour. Considering virtually no use from midnight until dawn, it would require about 130 cars an hour. Three cars crossed the bridge in the 15 minutes I was there this morning. I was there to completely document the bridges photographically, (car and pedestrian) to insure that the County Administration inflicts no intentional damage to these structures. If I was a County Commissioner given misinformation about something which I can so easily observe, I would have to seriously question everything coming down from this Administration.

Please join me Wednesday evening, 7:30, at the County Commissioner Meeting, and prevail upon the Commissioners not to squander our tax money and our history.


Anonymous said...

no offense Michael, you aren't an engineer. Neither is Solt (to the best of my knowledge). Neither are ANY of the commissioners. the commissioners could very easily request an independent engineering assessment/analysis of the existing bridge and pedestrian walk way along with a traffic count. The questions should be simple:

-what is the condition of the bridge?
-what weight limits protect motorists and the public?
-what are the options for weight limitations that are relevant for a bridge at this location, largely used for connecting neighborhoods as opposed to moving goods/services
-what are the options for a bridge at this location, along with costs, weight limitations and other factors?

this would cost about 15-20k to do. if the report comes back differently than Solt's assessment, then the commissioners can act accordingly, knowing (at the very least) they exercised responsibility in independently verifying these kinds of details. Of course, it is a very public declaration that it does not trust the county executive.

If the commissioners do nothing to get better information or at least information that they can trust and vote to quash any spending on the bridge at this location, they are as guilty of poor governance (governance by non-feasence) as the county executive would be of governing by misinformation (or misfeasence). It would be wonderful if the commissioners could save taxpayers some money, but doing nothing but slapping some mortar between some stones and painting a few I-beams is probably not enough for this bridge to be maintained for the long haul. This is not a cheap restoration and preservation project. It might be worth while, but this is going to cost money one way or another.

michael molovinsky said...

no offense anonymous, but no engineer is needed. the structural integrity of both the auto and pedestrian bridges are self apparent, especially the pedestrian. please visit the site, and comment again. btw, with hamilton street one quarter block away, and union street one half block away, they could even close the auto bridge and not congest traffic in any way. the bridge was constructed in 1824 and required restoration in 1980, 156 years later. you now have a public works director publicly saying that stone arch bridges are junk, and on that basis he wants to spend a$1 million and you suggest spending 30k. yes, some cement pointing would be enough, but it's not needed on the stone arch bridge, please look at my photo's on the previous posts, they enlarge if clicked. yes, all the pedestrian bridge needs is paint. btw, which engineer do you suggest. if you haven't noticed, it's the newer bridges that fail.

Anonymous said...

no offense Michael, you aren't an engineer..........
Certainly, no REAL engineers have been working on this project.
The behavior demonstrated by our city "fathers" instills no confidence in any of us.
These individuals are trying to spend other peoples money as quickly as possible for anything they think will provide big profits for their cronies.
The list of current and proposed projects just goes on and on.
Decisions are made behind closed doors. Public clown and pony shows follow to lend legitimacy to their ill conceived notions.
All the home owners that I know in Allentown city are trying hard to vacate this bottomless pit as quickly as possible before being fleeced completely.
These are sad times for tax payers and great times for corrupt administrators,bankers,insiders of all sorts and their colleagues.

Anonymous said...

1 PM anonymous returning. Michael, your confidence is far greater than my own. While I recognize that historic bridges generally far outlast and outperform their modern relatives, that bridge has issues. I drive over it daily, I walk the dog in that area a few times a week and I go jogging over it often enough to know that it's condition needs more than mortar and some paint. the rust, which has been gathering since the mid 1990's, is problematic on its own.

Neither of us know the the condition of the mortar in the foundation of the stone bridge or what the conditions super structure under the road surface are. Flooding will compromise mortar joints deep in the foundation. It might be a quick fix. It might not be. And any mason will tell you that when you repair a mortar joint, you have to remove the defective mortar to the point where you have a solid enough mortar surface onto which the new mortar will bond. Mortaring an historic structure often times can't even be done with standard cement. It often requires a different compound. Do you know what the mortar contains? Is it portland cement, lime putty based mortar or something else? You don't throw portland cement on a mortar joint with lime putty mortar b/c the portland cement is harder. during the freeze/thaw process it will put pressure on the other surfaces (including existing joints, facing, etc). those surfaces, if they are softer than portland cement (which lime putty is), those surfaces will crack during freeze/thaw. Since the bridge was constructed in 1824, before portland cement, the bridge is likely made with mortar other than cement. if it was refinished in the 1980's with portland cement, then I can practically assure you that the interior mortar joints are cracked and compromised. Even if it wasn't, now we are dealing with mortar joints that erode much quicker than cement. That's not a reason to demolish, but it is something that absolutely needs to be investigated. My own experience with these kinds of projects says that every 30 years, you need to do a thorough repair of about 25-30% of mortar joints. Most people defer until you have to redo it all together or demolish it. The cost of the 1980 restoration must have been astronomical unless they were doing mortar repairs every 30 years. (continued)

Anonymous said...

(continued) On the pedestrian bridge, that rust needs to be ground down until there is no rust on all of its surfaces. You don't just paint over rust (that just traps the moisture and causes deeper corrosion). Many of the joints are rusted to the point that if you remove the rust entirely, we've probably compromised the strength of the hardware (literally nuts, bolts and welding). This requires repairs before painting. That costs money. In my mind, it's preferable to tearing it down.

Ideally, a bridge like this gets mortar touch ups ever 5 years and the pedestrian piece gets painted as often. In terms of costs, doing this every five years will cost roughly the same amount as doing huge restoration projects every 30 years. historic structures are funny in that maintenance is either a little money frequently or a lot of money at once. Pick you poison.

I'm familiar enough with the bridge and your pictures generally confirm what I understand to be a bridge in need of improvements that protect the structural and superficial components of the bridge. It can probably be done cheaper than building a new bridge (60% of the cost). It will have to be done again in 30 years and then 30 years later. By that time, the new bridge will have outlived it's life. Replacing it after 60 years will have given us 2 bridges with roughly 120% of cost of continuing a cycle of 30 year restoration improvements. I'll take the preservation any day. The ONLY benefit I possibly see in building a new bridge is that it can be constructed in such a way that flooding isn't as likely to wash it out. It's still an issue and I don't think the cost of flood-related repairs will outweigh the benefits of reducing that concern.

We are on the same page, but while you are content to do a couple of superficial things that do nothing to protect the bridge for more than 5 years, I am willing to invest in the structure to protect it for another 30 years (perhaps longer).

Anonymous said...

oh, final question posed: which engineer?

Requests for Proposals are fantastic tools to help figure that out. Taxpayers deserve an open process with proposals that measure cost, reputation and effectiveness of the firm. For me to suggest a firm, and for any of the commissioners to suggest a firm, should be frowned upon. Allow it to be a competitive process. Eliminate any firms that made contributions to any of the candidates for county commissioner.

Anonymous said...

All hail Chairman Pawlowski!

Have YOU bought your seasons tickets to the magnificent $ 160.0 million dollar Palace of Sport yet?

michael molovinsky said...

mr. anonymous, i've been involved maintenance for 35 years, including masonry pointing and steel painting. i suggest you re-examine the stonework, it's in good shape. of course all the rust needs to be removed before painting the steel. i examined and photographed the the nuts and bolts fastening the beams to the piers this morning, they are fine. the bridge is inspected every year, and passed. i suggest if you doubt this, you avoid driving over it. after 186 years, if the bridge hasn't washed out yet, that's a bonus fear. your suggestion that this bridge needs $600,000 dollars of work is absurd (replacement budgeted at $1 million); the reality is a fraction of that. the drive to replace this bridge is a juxaposition of cunningham's campaign pledge, and solt's ill-informed attitude about stone bridges. i will put up a quote from 2006 which shows that this bridge wasn't even on the original problem bridge list.

michael molovinsky said...

Cunningham, who came to office in January, said he wants to spend $773,000 next year to start work on rehabilitating seven of the county's 47 bridges: Linden Street bridge over Jordan Creek in Allentown; the Coplay/Northampton bridge over the Lehigh River; the Schmoyer's Mill Bridge in Lower Macungie Township; the Kochers Bridge in Lowhill Township; the Lyon Valley Bridge on Old Village Road in Lowhill Township; the Manassas-Guth covered bridge in South Whitehall Township; and the Pine Street bridge over the Lehigh River in Catasauqua...Showing a commitment to spend county funds would help leverage state and federal funds, he said.
The Morning Call July1, 2006

Anonymous said...

MM -

Did they replace the covered bridge you mention with a prefab bridge, or did they preserve it?