$5 fee appears to be best way to repair bridges

Lycoming County has 54 structurally deficient bridges that are not owned by the county, but rather local municipalities that do not have the means or funds to repair them.

To get the job done, the Lycoming County Commissioners are considering a $5 vehicle registration fee. The fee would be used to pay off a $7.8 million loan that the county would take out to pay for the upgrading of 40 of the structurally deficient bridges.

The commissioners held a town hall last week regarding the fee and, as should be expected, opinion was divided regarding it.

But, in our view, this is a much better approach than the alternatives. The bridges have to be repaired, The municipalities do not have the money to pay for the work and it’s unrealistic to expect them to find a way to raise the revenue in the future.

The fee would be paid only by local drivers. Without a fee or municipality means to pay for the bridge work, the next alternative would be a hike in taxes, which affects everyone, including the elderly on fixed incomes.

This is the most pragmatic approach available.

We believe it is the correct approach, with two caveats.

First, the promise that the funds will go to PennDOT and come back, dollar-for-dollar, to the county, must be kept to the letter. We have no reason to believe it wouldn’t be that way, but people paying the fees will be very antsy about their money being used as promised.

And when it comes time to spend the money on bridge work, we expect complete transparency from all public bodies involved in the individual construction projects.

Again, the faith of those paying the fee must be rewarded with transparency that carries assurances that the public end of the agreement is being kept.