PennDOT fails again

Augustine Marinelli

After the so-called Valentine’s Day disaster on I-78, which left drivers stranded on a cold, dark highway all night, PennDOT vowed not to be caught with its pants down again. During the last storm, however, PennDOT and its Philadelphia counterpart just couldn’t keep their belts fastened. Despite falling down on the job, the Philadelphia Streets commissioner Clarena Tolson had the audacity to claim that they were salting and plowing “as soon as the storm took hold” and did so several times in some areas. Well, I have three words for Tolson: male cow excrement. I was out on the streets Friday night, and they were anything but plowed.

I had the misfortune to be on a northbound bus from Washington, D.C., once the winter storm turned to snow. I was on I-95, a major arterial highway that moves people, commercial goods and drugs all the way from the Florida Keys to Maine. Reason suggests that this highway would be among the first to be salted and plowed. The state of Delaware seems to subscribe to this logic. My bus plowed through Delaware along with their DOT road-clearing crew at 30 miles an hour from the Maryland border all the way to Chester, Pa. But logic is lost on Pennsylvania and Philadelphia, where legislating is a full-time job that pays six figures, and the mayor’s best idea for curbing gun violence is to exhort “the youth” to be more civil.

When the bus reached Chester, we were swerving and sliding on icy snow like a drunken man in a house of mirrors. It would stand to reason that some state or municipal official would have at least salted the bridges, which, as we all know, freeze first. Common sense was defeated once again: the bridges were safely iced over, protecting them from the damage that heavy buses inflict on asphalt. The Penrose Avenue Bridge over the Delaware River was so caked with ice and snow that the bus driver hung up his cell phone to devote his full attention to driving across it. As I thought about tying my shoes around my neck and reviewing the instructions for the Ted Kennedy Swim Meet (wait until the vehicle hits the bottom, swim out ahead of other passengers, break the surface and call your lawyer), I was still prepared to give PennDOT and the Streets Commission the benefit of the doubt. Maybe the plowmen had not reached the southern extremes of Philadelphia. Well, I was wrong. The Schuylkill Expressway was under a layer of ice thicker than Hillary Clinton at a “listening” forum. The only thing that looked reasonably clear was the parking lot and entrance to the pornographic paraphernalia purveyor at Vare Avenue and I-76. Its lot was half full for the “All-Male Revue.” At least someone’s priorities were in order.

While skating north on University Avenue, we encountered three city plow trucks. “Wow, they’re really working now,” I thought to myself. Wrong! These employees of the month were safely ensconced in their heated cabs. One municipal hero had the nerve to call his friend to come out and keep him company by parking his Impala in the middle of the street and blocking the rest of traffic, thus forcing our dear driver to beach the bus on a median/snow drift, open the door and tell this moron to move his car. After all, the Lord loves a working man.

As we helped clear the ice off our professor’s car, we found two parking tickets frozen to the windshield. The state cannot clear the road, but its Philadelphia Parking Authority can issue two parking tickets for the same car during a freak storm. Thanks, Pennsylvania!

My little adventure through the urban tundra begs one question for the state and city governments: If Delaware, which charges no sales tax to pay for stuff like road clearing, can dispatch a phalanx of plows out to clear the highway, why can’t you?

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Augustine Marinelli is a senior political science major from Atlanta, Ga. He can be reached at [email protected]