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Key Bridge collapse brings PA problems into focus

Plus, everything you need to know ahead of Primary Election Day.

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Monday, April 1, 2024
Today: Bridge conditions, primary questions, social media campaign, well awareness, unclear branding, bill delay, and a famous piece of furniture.
The collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore is drawing new attention to the importance of bridges across the country — and the rough shape many are in, including here in Pennsylvania.

The Key Bridge collapsed on March 26 after being struck by a cargo ship, leaving at least six people dead. In a May 2023 inspection report, the federal National Bridge Inventory said it was in “fair condition.”

An estimated 42,400 bridges in the United States have scored lower and are considered to be in poor condition, according to an Associated Press analysis of federal data. Pennsylvania is second behind Iowa with the greatest number of poor bridges — more than 3,000. 

The condition of the commonwealth’s bridges came to the forefront after the collapse of Pittsburgh’s Fern Hollow Bridge in January 2022, which left several people injured. The National Transportation Safety Board concluded that “multiple failures” on the city, state, and federal levels contributed to the collapse, and the bridge should have been closed a decade ago.

“It’s certainly putting significant barriers for a community that you wouldn’t necessarily have of anybody else. You wouldn’t hold the primary election during Easter Sunday."

—Aaron Gorodzinsky, director of campaign and security planning at the Jewish Federation of the Lehigh Valley, on the upcoming primary election falling on Passover.

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TRUSTING ELECTIONS: Join us Tuesday, April 2, at 6 p.m. ET on Zoom for a live panel Q&A with Al Schmidt, secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of State, on creating trust in our election system and combatting misinformation. Register here and submit questions here or to events@spotlightpa.org

A rosy sunset in Delaware County, via Bill M. Send us your photos by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania
a pink and blue sunset behind several trees
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.ELECTION FAQ: Pennsylvania's primary election is fast approaching and you may have questions like: When do the polls open? How do I change political parties? Can independents vote on April 23? And who's on the ballot? Spotlight PA has you covered with this complete guide.

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.TIKTOK TARGET
TikTok is running ads in swing states including Pennsylvania to pressure U.S. senators to reject a U.S. House bill that could effectively ban the app, CNBC reports. A trading firm co-founded by Pennsylvania's richest man, Jeff Yass, owns a 15% stake in TikTok's parent company; Yass is backing U.S. Sen. Bob Casey's Republican opponent Dave McCormick. 

Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania. WELL AND BAD: State officials and U.S. Rep. Summer Lee (D., Pa.) recently toured a Westmoreland County property that features an abandoned gas well to highlight the issue, TribLIVE reports. In recent years, Pennsylvania has used federal funding to supercharge its plugging of dangerous wells that leak methane, but as Spotlight PA reported, the scope of the problem is massive.

Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.PRICEY BILLBOARD: The Office of State Inspector General is spending $240,000 on a marketing campaign that includes billboards and social media messages, PennLive (paywall) reports. While the agency's goal for the campaign is to elicit tips about fraud and waste, at least one lawmaker says that message is muddled.

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.
STALLED EFFORTS: More than a year after a train carrying hazardous materials derailed in East Palestine, Congressional lawmakers including those from Pennsylvania say industry lobbyists are stonewalling their efforts to advance the Railway Safety Act, TribLIVE reports. While Norfolk Southern’s CEO spoke positively about the bill last year, U.S. Rep. Chris Deluzio (D., Pa.) claims lobbying by the company to weaken the legislation has influenced his colleagues not to act.
LIQUOR BILLS: Republican lawmakers are pushing legislation that would provide amnesty to bars and restaurants that violated COVID-era protocols, Reason reports.

PA TIES: A group of design experts says George Nakashima's Slab I Coffee Table is one of the "25 most defining pieces of furniture from the last 100 years." Nakashima lived in New Hope, where you can visit his studio.

CHARGES CLEARED: Of the 153 exonerations that took place nationwide in 2023, 15 occurred in Philadelphia — a number experts attributed to DA Larry Krasner's focus on the Conviction Integrity Unit.

NEW LAWS: Gov. Josh Shapiro recently signed four bills into law, including one that removes the need for a fishing license if the purpose is therapeutic. 

WRASSLIN’ FUN: WrestleMania returns to Philadelphia for the first time since 1999 this weekend. The Inquirer (paywall) compiled a guide for those traveling on the best places to stay, eat, and park.
Unscramble and send your answer to scrambler@spotlightpa.org. We'll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag. Answers submitted by 5:30 p.m. on issue date will be counted.

Friday's answer: Marginalia 

Congrats to our weekly winner: Liza B.

Congrats to our daily winners: Kimberly B., Barbara F., Stacy S., Kimberly D., Don H., Bob C., Jon W., Lynne E., Richard A., Alan B., Elaine C., Malachy M., Steve C., John H., Janet S., John A., Jody A., Kevin M., David W., Stanley J., William Z., Tracy S., Susan N., Marie B., Jeffrey F., Tom M., Jodi M., Perry H., Leslie N., Jane R., and John P.
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