Where is Upstate’s Share of State Infrastructure Dollars?

A Legislative Column by Assemblyman Will Barclay
One of the biggest legislative challenges in Albany is to make sure that there is parity in state spending between Upstate and Downstate New York.

This is particularly challenging when it comes to transportation spending.

Downstate New York relies on mass transit for their transportation needs, while in Upstate, we are much more reliant on our cars for our transportation needs.

Accordingly, the needs of each region tend to be very different. Downstate, to a great degree, relies on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to maintain their bus, subway and train systems and Upstate relies on the Department of Transportation to maintain our roads and bridges.

Two weeks ago, Governor Cuomo and NYC Mayor Bill DeBlasio announced that they had reach an agreement whereby the state would provide the MTA with an additional $8.3 billion to go towards the MTA’s five-year capital program (which was facing a nearly $11 billion funding gap). This may be a very necessary investment for the Downstate transit system.

However, as New York is committing to making this substantial investment to downstate, the Governor must recognize that Upstate’s transportation system also needs substantial investment.

It should be noted that 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.

In a report released last month, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave New York’s roads and bridges grades of D- and D+ respectively.

TRIP, a national transportation advocacy group estimates that poor road and bridge conditions in New York cost drivers $2,300 annually in lost time, fuel costs, vehicle repairs and other expenses.

Indeed, even our own DOT estimates that the state spends half of what we need on transportation each year.

Advocacy does make a difference on these issues.

In 2013, due to the pressure put on by myself, several of my 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.

In addition, over the last two years, we were able to secure an additional $40 million and $50 million respectively in winter recovery funds, dispersed through the CHIPS formula to help our local municipalities maintain our roads due to the harsh winters.

This year CHIPS received $438 million.

More needs to be done, however, and it should be done on par with downstate.  If the governor is going to find $8.3 billion in this year’s state budget for the MTA, equal amounts should be also dedicated to Upstate’s roads and bridges which are also in desperate need of repair.

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.