Highway Superintendents Bring Local Roads Matter! Campaign to the Capitol

600 gather in Albany to Urge Adequate Funding for Highway and Bridge System

ALBANY, NY (03/12/2010)(readMedia)-- This week the New York State County Highway Superintendents Association, Inc. (NYSCHSA) and the New York State Association of Town Superintendents of Highways, Inc. (NYSAOTSOH) launched their annual Local Roads Matter! campaign to garner legislative and public support for adequate funding for the State's local roads and bridges infrastructure.

Last year, Governor Paterson characterized his own administration's 5 Year Capital Plan as "unaffordable." However, the level of funding recommended was far below the need estimated by the Department of Transportation just to maintain the core infrastructure. In fact, the $25.8 billion NYSDOT Plan designed to address the overwhelming needs of the state and local highway and bridge systems would meet only 50% of the actual needs of highways and bridges.

Among other things, the proposed 5 Year Capital Plan supported providing $150 million in capital funding to local governments for bridge rehabilitation and replacement of bridges owned by counties, cities, towns and villages. DOT's concern with bridge conditions statewide was validated soon after the release of the proposal when the Lake Champlain Bridge from Essex County to Vermont was permanently closed. A disaster declaration was issued and emergency transportation measures totaling millions of dollars were put in place. This high profile example of the consequences of bridge failures is of particular concern to local governments which are struggling to secure adequate funding to meet infrastructure and all other needs.

The local bridge problem is particularly troublesome. According to an audit issued by the by the State Comptroller in January 2010, local bridges were more than twice as likely as state bridges to be "red-flagged" for serious structural defects. Therefore, the failure to provide for the local bridge program in the Executive Budget is unacceptable. We need to start now to address the local bridge problem if we wish to avoid new disaster declarations and disruptions to the commerce and quality of life in our communities.

Upwards of 600 county and town highway superintendents, commissioners and other highway industry professionals rallied in Albany today for a Local Roads and Bridges Grassroots Campaign. Members of both organizations spent the day meeting with state lawmakers to request the funding necessary to address the needs for local highway and bridge systems, which make up 87 percent of the state's roadways and 52 percent of its bridges.

"Most people don't realize that the Federal Stimulus-American Recovery and Reinvestment Act-could only be used for certain federally-aided highways," stated Thomas Reifsteck, NYSAOTSOH President and Superintendent of Highways for the Town of Middlesex, Yates County. "The Stimulus left out a huge portion of our local highway system and failed to stimulate jobs in local communities and businesses throughout the State."

NYSCHSA President Terrence Rice, Monroe County Highway Superintendent said, "As much as we are concerned about the transportation infrastructure, it is the financial infrastructure that truly worries us. We have noted for many years even before the current economic crisis that the Dedicated Highway and Bridge Trust Fund (DHBTF) was facing a deficit and now the situation has worsened. Additionally, prices for commodities used in road construction have proven extremely volatile, with upward price swings greatly outpacing indicators such as the Consumer Price Index. For example, through January and February 2010 alone, oil prices for asphalt have increased about 30%!"

To address the critical condition of the local transportation infrastructure, the groups are urging Governor Patterson and the NYS Legislature to include, as part of the 2010-2011 State Budget, the following program enhancements:

• Consistent with the multi-year transportation capital plan proposed by NYSDOT in 2009, authorize CHIPs funding at $420.0 million and Marchiselli funding at $56.0 million for fiscal year 2010-2011. This represents more than the Governor's proposal of $363.1 million for CHIPS and $39.7 million for Marchiselli. Although far short of the investment needed to make real progress in the local road and bridge system, the proposed increase will slow the deterioration of the local system.

• Also consistent with the NYSDOT capital plan proposal, establish a local bridge and culvert initiative totaling $150 million for five years and fund the first year at $30 million. Localities are responsible for over half of all highway bridges in the state, and a disproportionate number of those are or will soon become deficient due to lack of funding.

• Reform the Dedicated Highway and Bridge Trust Fund to insure that the bulk of dedicated transportation revenues are actually invested in capital projects that insure the safety of the traveling public. As noted by the State Comptroller in a report issued in 2009, since 1991 only 34.9 percent of the money in the fund went directly toward the repair and improvement of the State's deteriorating roads and bridges.

• Begin now to identify the new state revenues that will be needed to adequately fund the next five year transportation plan. The Governor's budget only funds the first two years of the DOT $25.8 billion proposal, arguing that the state must first see what Federal surface transportation legislation will provide to New York. But with $1.2 billion in unmet needs annually in the local road and bridge system alone, it is widely recognized that the system is in crisis and that new state resources are needed to make real progress.

Local roads and bridges are a crucial part of the State's infrastructure. Providing the much-needed additional funds for local roads and bridges also sustains local jobs, both public and private, in highway-related industries and professions.

Most New York families live on local roads. Manufacturing plants, office buildings and warehouses are located on local roads. Schools, hospitals, police stations and fire stations are on local roads. New York's economic and social life moves over local roads as much as State roads and interstate highways.

The mission of the New York State County Highway Superintendents Association, Inc. is to provide opportunities for professional development to its members while, as a unified voice, working to:

• provide information to the membership to aid in the operation of the highway departments;

• inform New York State lawmakers of county positions on proposed legislation involving highways and public works; and

• sponsor and promote the transfer of technology and information.

The mission of the New York State Association of Town Superintendents of Highways, Inc. is to:

• act as a medium of instruction in highway construction and maintenance;

• ensure better and safer highways;

• provide efficient public service;

• realize economies, through exchange of ideas, cooperation, and coordination;

• promote and support legislation that will benefit the best interest of the people in the towns;

• promote the principle of Home-Rule; and

• defend the town form of government.