Investments Still Needed in Infrastructure; More Dedicated to Local Highways in Recent Budgets

A legislative Column by Assemblyman Will Barclay
A report out last week graded New York’s overall infrastructure at a C-.  The report gave roads and bridges a D- and D+ respectively.

There were several categories included in the report published by the American Society of Civil Engineers, but since roads and bridges are our main source of transportation in Oswego, Jefferson and Onondaga counties, I wanted to mention some of the transportation investments made recently at the state level.

The letter grade serves as an important reminder for us in the State Legislature that we need to keep investing in infrastructure, particularly in roads and bridges.

New York will need to spend some $40 billion on roads by 2030 to keep up with road conditions and repairs, according to the report. This is to maintain 114,000 centerline miles of highway and more than 17,400 bridges.

Sources estimate that more than half of New York’s bridges are 75 years old so clearly we need to plan for their replacements and necessary repairs.

Local governments are responsible for the maintenance of nearly 85% of the roads and about half of the bridges in the state.

Accordingly, they need assistance meeting the repair demands, especially considering our snowfalls.

Last year, the State Legislature was able to provide additional funding for roads and bridges, thanks in part to bank settlement monies New York received.

While a large portion of settlement monies went to Downstate projects, the state did created the State and Local Bridge fund.

The Legislature set aside $150 million in this year’s budget to finance the fund which will help Upstate.

This is the first year of the five-year program which will ultimately invest $750 million to repair or replace 100 bridges serving critical freight, agricultural and commerce corridors.

For the past two years, we included additional monies for local governments for winter recovery.

I was pleased these dollars were included in the budget both years, as we all know too well what our winters can do to asphalt.

This is only the second year New York has specifically set aside dollars for winter-related road repairs in recent history and I hope it continues, as this directly benefits Upstate and weather-related repairs are a major consideration for highway maintenance crews throughout our area.

This year, we were able to set aside $50 million for road repairs needed related to winter snowfalls and the previous year, we set aside $40 million.

For the last three years, we’ve been able to fund the CHIPS (Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program) at a higher level than previously funded, which I was pleased to see.

I’ve advocated for this funding in Albany because it directly assists towns, villages and cities in Upstate New York.

In the 2012-13 budget, CHIPS was funded at $363 million.

The program saw a $75 million increase which began in 2013-14 and since then, it has received $438.1 million each year.

Investing in infrastructure ensures opportunities, opportunities for jobs, a stronger economy and safe travel.

The report is a good reminder that we should continue to make investments going forward, and to make infrastructure more of a priority in the coming years, not just when there are extra dollars to be found thanks to large bank settlements.

If you have any questions or comments on this or any other state issue, or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, please contact my office.

My office can be reached by mail at 200 N. Second St., Fulton, NY 13069, by e-mail at [email protected] or by calling (315) 598-5185.

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