Love me, it cries. Do not forsake me. Do not leave me to fend for myself against rain, sleet, snow and ice.
Help me to help myself. Patch my wounds. Fill my holes.
If concrete and asphalt could talk, these are the pleas this crossing would utter.
It is the cry of an orphan. It needs care, commitment, concern. Yet no one will claim it.
The span in question can be crossed in 12 steps. It straddles the finger of a creek on Erie Street in Lancaster. Metal plates cover a hole in its westbound lane. Crossings do not come any less impressive. But as a symbol of government dysfunction, it is a veritable Golden Gate.
Village officials say it is a bridge, and the town’s responsibility. Town officials say it is a culvert, and thus on the village’s books.
Thank God infrastructure doesn’t have feelings. Given the double rejection, the thing would probably give up hope and collapse into the creek.
That raises the existential question: Can a bridge throw itself off the bridge?
While pondering that, consider this: Lancaster’s “orphan” span is just one of a multitude of similar, care-denied crossings. Depew/Lancaster and East Aurora/Aurora also have village/town contested spans, as do a horde of municipalities across the state.
Our insistence on a multitude of overlapping governments keeps smacking us in the face. We pay for a redundancy of village/town/city/county governments, and the layers of elected officials and staff that comes with each, in higher taxes and a narrower vision. Erie County has 45 separate governments. Got a problem? Call your village mayor. Or your village board member. Or your town supervisor. Or your town board member. Or your county legislator. Or your county executive. Or your state senator. Or your state assemblyman. Or your congressman. Or … well, you get the idea.
You may not get your problem solved, but you get the idea.
The “orphan” bridge dispute is another symptom of the absurd level of over-government here and across the state. Note to Andrew Cuomo: If you want a span dispute to dive into, forget the Peace Bridge. Jump headlong into the Erie Street bridge/culvert battle, and the over-government redundancy it represents.
Granted, our villages – from Lancaster to Orchard Park, Hamburg to East Aurora – have an undeniable Ozzie-and-Harriet charm. Folks want to preserve it. Note the failure of recent efforts to dissolve the villages of Williamsville, Sloan and Farnham. Despite the lure of lower taxes, each effort was pounded at the polls.
That’s too bad. Village character, from what I’ve seen, is a function of design, infrastructure and zoning. It would exist whether there was a separate government or not. Consider such character-infused neighborhoods as the Elmwood Village and Snyder. Each retains its smaller-scale charm and aesthetic, without a separate government. Indeed, Elmwood Village is carved into three Council districts. Residents care about neighborhood character, work to preserve it and hold elected officials accountable. That’s how it works.
If there was no village government in Lancaster, the town would simply take care of the Erie Street span. One less orphan, one less absurdity.