WILKES-BARRE — Acting on a promise to work with President Donald Trump to rebuild the nation’s crumbling roads and bridges, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey asked for help with the Solomon Creek Wall reconstruction project.
Casey on Tuesday hand-delivered a letter to the administration when he met with the president at the White House on trade policy, said Jacklin Rhoads, the senator’s press secretary.
“He just wanted to make sure the administration knew it was a priority,” said Rhoads.
A day earlier, the president discussed his plans for an estimated $1.7 trillion investment in infrastructure through public and private partnerships. Casey did not ask for a dollar amount, but noted in his letter that a portion of the wall fell into the creek bed in December 2016 and the standing sections have deteriorated, posing further danger of collapse and flooding to the neighborhood.
“I hope that you will join me in helping the people of Wilkes-Barre by providing federal funding for this flood control project. Together, we can help the City of Wilkes-Barre receive the funding they need to protect thousands of homes and businesses in South Wilkes-Barre and rebuild the Solomon Creek Retaining Wall,” Casey wrote.
The senator added that the Army Corps of Engineers authorized funding for the project in 1998. But the money was never approved. The Corps later determined the cost of the comprehensive fix from Wilkes-Barre Township to Hanover Township outweighed the benefits. The city has asked the Corps to review its decision.
Casey, D-Scranton, toured the area with Wilkes-Barre Mayor Tony George and other elected officials after the collapse and revisited again last year when the city was searching for additional money to fund a comprehensive fix estimated at $15 million. The state stepped up with $4.6 million in funding and the city committed more than $4 million from a bond deal last year that put the total over the halfway mark for the project.
George appreciated Casey’s effort. “I think it carries a lot of weight. I’m happy with that,” the mayor said.
The lobbying stretched beyond party lines with the mayor reaching out to U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Lehigh Valley, as well. George said he met with a representative of Toomey’s office Monday.
The project’s final design is nearing completion, said Joyce Zaykowski, the city’s capital projects program manager.
“Our goal is to get this out for bid in late March,” Zaykowski said. The timetable calls for bids to be awarded in May or early June followed by a notice to proceed with construction.