A legislative Column by Assemblyman Will Barclay
One of the biggest legislative challenges in Albany is making sure that there is parity in state spending between Upstate and Downstate New York.
This is particularly challenging when it comes to transportation spending.
New York City relies primarily on mass transit for its transportation needs.
In Upstate, our primary mode of transportation is our cars.
Accordingly, the needs of each region tend to be very different.
NYC relies on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to maintain its bus, subway and train systems and Upstate relies on the Department of Transportation (DOT) to maintain our roads and bridges.
Unfortunately, Upstate is often shortchanged.
From 2010-15, the MTA received $23.8 billion for its 5-year capital plan while the DOT during the same time received $18.6 billion to maintain its aging and crumbling infrastructure.
This is a difference of $5.2 billion.
The disparity in funding becomes a long-term problem and, on a practical level, makes it harder to keep up with scheduled road maintenance that keeps roads safe.
The latest report completed by the American Society of Civil Engineers in 2015 gave New York’s roads and bridges grades of D- and D+ respectively.
A recent analysis of New York State Department of Transportation’s road pavement condition report shows the total lane miles that have been resurfaced and other maintenance work has decreased since 2012.
In 2012, there were 4,473 lane miles resurfaced but in 2016, that number dropped to 1,687.
Advocacy helps on both a local and statewide level.
The regional DOT is responsive to constituents’ concerns and is helpful when it comes to state highway issues in the district.
As a result, my office has been successful in advocating for local projects to be completed by the regional DOT and, in some cases, helped expedite road repair projects.
On the state level, the legislature has been successful in negotiating more money for roads and bridges than what the Governor proposed during the past 6 years.
In 2013, due to the pressure put on by myself, fellow Upstate legislative colleagues and highway superintendents throughout the state, we were able to get a $75 million increase in base funding for the Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS) – the program that provides aid to our local highway departments.
Thankfully, we have been able to maintain that investment and keep the road maintenance funding available for localities.
Because of these successes, we want to push further and start the discussion earlier.
Next week, I will co-host an Infrastructure Task Force in Auburn with my colleague, Assemblyman Gary Finch (R,C,I – Auburn).
We will be joined by other members of the State Assembly who are also concerned about Upstate’s infrastructure.
Area leaders such as local highway superintendents, school transportation officials, and business owners who spend a lot of time on our roads and bridges have been invited.
The meeting in Auburn will be the first of 8 regional task forces that will be held across the state.
The knowledge these stakeholders share will be used to further our arguments for Upstate in Albany.
I have continually fought for more infrastructure dollars for Upstate because I see how much of an impact the projects can make in our communities.
I will continue this push and work toward parity for Upstate.
Our Upstate economy depends on it.
If you have any questions or comments regarding this or any other state issue, please contact me.
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.
You can also friend me, Assemblyman Barclay, on Facebook.