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U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker, a Republican representing the 11th Congressional District, speaks during an interview at Greenfield Park in East Lampeter Township on Nov. 24, 2020.

THE ISSUE: The U.S. House of Representatives voted 228 to 206 last Friday for a roughly $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that will help to repair the nation’s roads and bridges, replace dangerous lead pipes carrying water, bolster internet service in rural areas and modernize the power grid. The bill passed with bipartisan support that included 13 Republicans, and it will be signed Monday by President Joe Biden. While it’s too early to know how much new funding will be available for Lancaster County and what projects will receive a green light, LNP | LancasterOnline’s Tom Lisi wrote Tuesday about some of the high-priority projects that county planners submitted earlier this fall to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, which was preparing for the possible passage of the legislation.

This necessary funding to repair and expand America’s infrastructure has been a long time coming.

Late in President Barack Obama’s second term, in November 2015, we wrote in an editorial, “You get what you pay for, and we’re getting it — as we travel on crumbling roads, bridges and other transportation infrastructure. ... Congress should be able to do better than this.”

But for too many years, through Democratic and Republican administrations, elected officials in Washington, D.C., couldn’t get on the same page to deliver meaningful legislation to fix America’s literal foundation.

So we’re glad these funds will finally start arriving after President Biden signs the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act on Monday. And the drama-filled path to the legislation’s ultimate passage now seems worth it, no matter how many frustrating twists there were along the way.

But we’re mystified and disappointed that U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker didn’t vote for this infrastructure bill, which will do so much good for his constituents in Lancaster County. It’s hard to see how his “nay” vote last Friday was in the best interest of those he was elected to serve. (We’re disappointed, too, that six progressive Democrats in the House also voted against the infrastructure bill. Who ever imagined that Smucker and The Squad would be on the same wrong side?)

We cannot allow any further degradation of America’s roads and bridges, its water supply or its too-vulnerable power grid. Thirteen of Smucker’s Republican colleagues in the House understood that basic fact and voted for the infrastructure funding. They did so despite pressure from extremists in their own party. The 13 Republicans “were savaged afterward by former President Donald Trump, hard-right Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., called them ‘traitors’ while tweeting their names and office telephone numbers, and one of the 13 says he received a death threat,” The Associated Press reported Thursday.

We’re thankful to those courageous Republicans, including Pennsylvania Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Bucks County. No one should have to face harassment or threats of violence for their vote, yay or nay, on any bill. It’s un-American.

Still, even amid this toxic state of politics, we’re not letting Smucker off the hook. He should have risen above it, as those 13 did, and voted for what was right and necessary.

Last Friday, on the night of the House vote, Smucker tweeted, “Today was the most expensive day in House history.”

He had no such qualms when he voted for the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, which he dubbed a “game-changer.” Which it was not, unless the game’s goal was to balloon the federal budget deficit.

Far more expensive than the $1.2 trillion to fix infrastructure now would have been the long-term price to America, had we continued to let the physical structures that bind us and drive the economy to decay.

“The federal government has created the crisis of deteriorating roads, defunct bridges, and vulnerable dams and levees through its inaction,” Fitzpatrick wrote in a statement accompanying his “yes” vote. “These types of arteries are the lifeblood of American commerce and must be improved. America’s infrastructure has reached a breaking point, and this is a challenge we can no longer ignore.”

Fitzpatrick is correct on all counts. Years of congressional inaction exacerbated America’s infrastructure woes, and this Congress has now thankfully voted to address them.

Many in the agriculture industry — which is such a vital part of Lancaster County — are also happy to see the bill’s passage, according to a roundup of reactions compiled by Lancaster Farming’s Philip Gruber. (Lancaster Farming is published by LNP Media Group, which also publishes LNP | LancasterOnline.)

“We cannot afford to ignore the millions of miles of roadways, waterways and railways rural America relies on to keep our country fed, especially as we see widespread supply chain challenges,” Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, said.

Added Rob Larew, the president of the National Farmers Union: “Rural America, like the rest of the country, needs access to high-speed internet, and this bill will make affordable broadband available to the 19 million Americans who have lived offline.”

And the National Corn Growers Association indicated that the legislation’s support for the nation’s ports and inland waterways will benefit corn growers while, crucially, not hitting them with any tax increases.

These agriculture industry leaders understand how ports, supply chains, improved watersheds, highways and internet service are all interconnected when it comes to keeping farms operating successfully.

Also for Lancaster County, an infusion of infrastructure funds could mean the realization of several “wish list” projects, LNP | LancasterOnline’s Lisi reported Tuesday.

It could, for example, bring an economic boom to Columbia. One of the potential Lancaster County projects that have already been vetted “involves $5 million worth of improvements to the Veterans Memorial Bridge, where a new bike lane and road markings could funnel more walkers, bicyclists and hikers into Columbia,” Lisi reported.

Some other potential projects that have been given a high priority by county planners include:

— A resurfacing of 2.6 miles of Route 222, from just north of the Jake Landis Interchange to Route 772.

— Upgraded intersections at the interchange of Route 30 and Route 462 in East Lampeter Township.

— An intersection improvement to address the confusing intersection of Route 324 and Route 222.

— A bridge replacement over Cocalico Creek in Ephrata Township on Mohler Church Road, which sees heavy truck traffic and is prone to flooding.

We imagine that you, like us, were nodding your head while reading the above list and thinking about how such fixes would markedly improve the quality of life here.

While much remains unknown about how the funds will be spent, we share Republican Lancaster County Commissioner Ray D’Agostino’s hope for an open process that also considers other worthy projects.

“I’d like to see, quite frankly, us be able to do some things that are real value-adds, that can have a great return on the investment, but the investment doesn’t really take as much as some of these large projects,” D’Agostino said.

There will be many thoughtful conversations ahead when it comes to bolstering infrastructure throughout the county. The crucial development is that we can finally have them, and they’re no longer just hypotheticals or wishful thinking.

We’re thankful that enough members of Congress finally came together and agreed that we must keep our nation from crumbling any further — even if it took far too long. And even if our own congressman inexplicably voted against his county's interests.

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