Local Road and Bridge Funding Crisis Draws 600 County & Town Highway Officials & Advocates to State Capital
ALBANY, NY (03/04/2015)(readMedia)-- ALBANY, NY -Six hundred county and town highway superintendents, public works commissioners and other highway industry professionals swarmed the halls of the Capitol and Legislative Office Building in Albany March 3rd & 4th to urge the Governor and state lawmakers to make the maintenance and repair of local roads and bridges a top priority in the state budget.
The New York State County Highway Superintendents Association (NYSCHSA) and the New York State Association of Town Superintendents of Highways (NYSAOTSOH) say local governments need a minimum increase in funding for the Consolidate Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS) of $200 million to $638 million per year. They are also calling for the establishment of a multi-year state aid to local road, bridge and culvert program funded by a portion of the foreign bank settlement funds or from other available sources.
"The $5.4 billion in foreign bank settlement funds gives the state an incredible opportunity to address the critical needs of the statewide transportation system," said Kevin O'Brien, President of the NYSCHSA and Commissioner of Public Works for Niagara County. "Considering that local governments own 87% of the roads and 50% of the bridges, it's imperative that the state boost CHIPS funding and help fund fixes to our crumbling bridges and culverts. It's great to see so much support for our efforts among our state elected officials, editorial boards throughout the state and the traveling public."
Studies show that spending to keep New York's local roads, bridges and culverts in good condition falls short by $1.3 billion annually. Incredibly, the Governor's Executive Budget includes no increased funding for CHIPS and provides no details on how funding would be distributed or how bridge projects would be chosen under a proposed state/local bridge program.
Local governments are responsible for 87% of New York State's 112,500 mile highway system and half of the 18,000 bridges. A safe efficient statewide highway infrastructure is necessary for trade, economic development and revitalization, our schools, businesses, health and hospital facilities, emergency responders, and the traveling public.
Rising costs and dwindling funding from other sources means local highway departments are losing the preservation battle. Making matters worse, federal transportation aid to New York (MAP-21) is primarily directed to the National Highway System, resulting in even less funding flowing to the local systems as has been available in the past.
"Today even with the recent funding increase, we treat only a fraction of the road mileage that we did just a few years ago," said Russell Page, NYSAOTSOH President and Highway Superintendent for Town of Leicester, Livingston County. "The majority of funds go to maintenance and preservation, when replacement is desperately needed."
To address today's critical condition of the local transportation infrastructure, both associations are urging the Legislature and the Governor to include, as part of the final 2015-2016 State Budget, the following program enhancements:
• New 5-Year Capital Plan to Include CHIPS Increase to $638 Million Per Year
• $500 Million 5 Year State Aid to Local Road, Bridge and Culvert Program
• Restore Funding Parity Between the DOT and MTA Capital Plans
• Return the Dedicated Highway and Bridge Trust Fund to Solvency
The groups' local road, bridge, and culvert campaign is called, "Local Roads Matter!" Local roads are a crucial part of the State's infrastructure. As much as half of all vehicle miles traveled in New York State is on local roads. The maintenance, repair and strategic replacement of existing transportation infrastructure are required for safety, mobility and for the State to remain economically competitive. Providing the much-needed funds for local roads and bridges also sustains jobs-both public and private in highway related industries and professions.