Last week, John Oliver mocked Willie Singletary in a rant that condemned the former Philly Traffic Court judge's use of his "judicial penis," in the process putting a piece of Philadelphia lore on display for all the world to see. Last night, the hot sausage sandwich that rescued I-95 from collapse in March 2008 got the same treatment.
The latest episode of Last Week Tonight addressed America's failing infrastructure, which is so bad that "even a total idiot" like Donald Trump can see it, as Oliver said last night. Infrastructure, for those confused, includes "our roads, bridges, dams, levees, airports, power grids — basically anything that can be destroyed in an action movie."
Philly comes into the picture around the 6:40 mark, when Oliver begins to discuss "how close to catastrophe we occasionally are" with a clip from an episode of 60 Minutes featuring Ed Rendell. With that, he launches into the story of how construction engineers Peter Kim and Tony Jen pulled off I-95 in Port Richmond one fateful day in 2008 to discover that a column supporting six lanes of the highway had developed an enormous crack. Without their intervention, a tragedy likely would have developed.
"So there might have been a disaster if those Philly contractors had not wanted to stop for a sausage sandwich," Oliver said. "Which means we were fine — we were always going to be fine."
The seriousness of the situation, however, was not lost on Oliver, who explained how close we in Philly came to a bridge collapse. And how close we may come yet, given the right circumstances.
"But the scary thing is, what if the next cracked pillar is next to a vegan smoothie stand?" Oliver asked. "The bridge is going down, and people are going to die."
And those circumstances, it seems, are about to become even more common. As Oliver pointed out last night, much of the United States' infrastructure is managed with money from the US Highway Trust Fund, which will go bankrupt on May 31 should Congress refuse to act. With that in mind, it should be noted that a report named Pennsylvania as the state with the most unsound bridges back in April last year.
The problem comes back to the fund's revenue stream, which comes from taking an 18.4 cent-per-gallon gas tax, which has not been adjusted for inflation since 1993.
"The fact that it hasn't increased means that in real terms, the gas tax has gone down 39 percent since 1993," Oliver said. "Much like Koosh Ball sales, or respect for Bill Cosby."
Oliver being Oliver, though, finished up the bit with a searing Donald Trump joke made just after playing a clip of Trump urging infrastructure repair.