JOHNSTOWN — Gov. Tom Corbett placed a hunk of the Hickory Street Bridge on a podium.
He repeatedly tapped the piece of concrete when discussing the condition of Pennsylvania’s transportation infrastructure during a visit to Environmental Tank & Container in Johnstown on Thursday morning.
There are about 4,000 bridges and 10,000 miles of roads in disrepair across the commonwealth.
Earlier this year, the state Senate easily passed a bipartisan large-scale funding package for roads, bridges and public transit. It never got through the House for several reasons, including some opposition to removing a cap on taxes paid by gasoline suppliers.
Even after the proposed legislation fizzled, Corbett, a Republican, has continued to call for investment in infrastructure.
“We didn’t take it off the bridge,” said Corbett, referring to the concrete.
“It was on the ground, as were other pieces. They are pieces that have crumbled, flaking from that bridge. Now, we know that the bridge is slated for refurbishing next spring, but the reality of it is that there are thousands of bridges in Pennsylvania, right now, that are crumbling like this. I always think of that one bridge in Minnesota; it just went down. We don’t want that in Pennsylvania.”
Corbett said the commonwealth’s transportation infrastructure needs to be improved in order to assist businesses, such as ETC, and to provide safety for school buses, fire trucks, police cars and other vehicles.
“Those roads and bridges that they have to travel on are in serious need of repair,” Corbett said.
Like Corbett, state Sen. John Wozniak, D-Westmont, has repeatedly supported plans to repair the state’s bridges and roads.
“This is probably the most important decision we can make in the first quarter of the 21st century,” said Wozniak, the Senate Transportation Committee’s minority chairman.
“Maybe people do not realize it, but this investment creates tens of thousands of jobs. And, more importantly than that, if that’s not important enough, it’s the safety issue out there.”
Corbett tied the transportation issue to work being done by ETC, which frequently ships products over hundreds of miles.
The company manufactures portable fluid storage tanks used in several fields, including the Marcellus Shale natural gas industry.
ETC, a member of the JWF Industries family, moved into an idle structure on Cramer Pike and created what is a growing business thanks, in part, to receiving a $1 million Economic Growth Initiative grant earlier in 2013.
“Two and a half years ago, the only sound you would have heard in this place was the echo of your voice,” said Environmental Tank & Container owner Bill Polacek during the governor’s visit.
ETC hopes to hire 100 more workers within the next few years.
“These are family-sustaining, highly skilled jobs, not just in Pennsylvania, but in the U.S.A,” Polacek said.
Dave Sutor is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/Dave_Sutor.