The Platt Tit for Tat

The future looks dark for the George C. Platt Memorial Bridge in Philadelphia, as city and state officials continue an eight-year stalemate over who's responsible for the structure's lighting.
by | September 2000

The future looks dark for the George C. Platt Memorial Bridge in Philadelphia, as city and state officials continue an eight-year stalemate over who's responsible for the structure's lighting. Despite residents' hopes that hosting the Republican National Convention might prompt government at some level to remedy the situation, that didn't happen.

The entire 8,000-foot span was lit by the city until 1992, when it was determined that heavy traffic had caused the light fixtures to become loose and dangerous. At that point, the city asked the state to take over the task, noting that the Platt bridge is owned by the state. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation concurred on the issue of ownership, but it said the city should control the lighting, as it does on each of the 426 other state-owned bridges in Philadelphia.

When the state (which in 1985 had recommended against installation of the particular fixtures the city chose, arguing that they couldn't withstand the bridge vibrations) stood firm, the city removed all the globes, leaving more than 60 lampposts standing and the wiring intact- -and only red aviation hazard lights to illuminate the bridge.

"It's a straight bridge, and it's totally removed from any pedestrian and urban activity," says Joseph Doyle, the city's chief lighting engineer. "We really don't need lighting there."

"That's ridiculous," counters state Representative Robert Donatucci, who has repeatedly written both PennDOT and Philadelphia officials imploring them to resolve the lighting issue. "It's one of the nastiest, darkest bridges you would ever want to drive across at night."

Zach Patton | Executive Editor | zpatton@governing.com