»

ASSEMBLY MINORITY: Transportation and infrastructure failures impact all New Yorkers

Some legislators say it’s time to put serious focus on roads, bridges, and water systems. Especially in Upstate New York.

Last fall, members of the Assembly Minority Conference hosted a series of eight regional forums to discuss a wide range of topics impacting the state’s transportation and infrastructure.

Stakeholders with firsthand experience in the infrastructure, transportation and construction industries discussed ways to improve short- and long-term solutions to the state’s underfunded, crumbling infrastructure systems.

As a result of the forums, the Assembly Minority Task Force on Critical Infrastructure and Transportation released its report, NEW YORK’S INFRASTRUCTURE: A Report on Fortifying Our Roads, Bridges and Water Systems.

“This report is the culmination of numerous hours of traveling, testimony, gathering research and analysis. It was a tremendous lift, but our picture of the state’s infrastructure woes is comprehensive and substantial. I am proud to have been a part of this important effort,” said Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (R,C,I-Corning), task force co-chairman. “What we learned strongly reinforces the undeniable reality that New York’s statewide and local transportation infrastructure faces critical deficiencies that demand our attention and action. It will require continued cooperation on targeted legislation, strategic planning and, especially, investment. This is especially true when it comes to the need for the state to strengthen and increase its funding commitment to important programs like the CHIPS program for the improvement and ongoing maintenance of local roads, bridges and culverts, as well as investments for local water and sewer infrastructure. This network of local infrastructure is significant and vital, and these systems are in crisis.”

“Professionals from every region of the state spoke with us about their experiences and challenges, and our commitment to uncovering the most complete picture of our state’s infrastructure issues remains unmatched. This report represents a team effort toward the singular goal of making life better for all New Yorkers – better roads and a stronger, safer transportation system leads to greater opportunities for everyone,” said Assemblyman Kevin Byrne (R,C,Ref-Mahopac), task force co-chairman. “If there was ever an issue to unite legislators from both political parties, this is it. We must, and will, fight tooth-and-nail to enact wholescale reform to the way our state approaches transportation funding before it’s too late.”

The Assembly Minority Conference will introduce a comprehensive package of bills to improve funding for the state’s roads, bridges and water and sewer systems. Among some of the conference proposals generated from the task force are:

  • Ensure funding parity between the upcoming NYSDOT and MTA Five-Year Capital Programs;
  • Increase CHIPS base aid by $100 million/year for five years and tie to CPI to account for inflation and increasing material costs;
  • Enact legislation mandating that all funding for the DHBTF is to be used only for capital infrastructure, not for state operations or debt service payments;
  • Expand support for the Clean Water Investment Act (CWIA) to ensure long-term commitment to water, sewer infrastructure;
  • Establish a companion for the existing CHIPS program, offering financial assistance to local governments for drinking, storm and sewer water infrastructure, called the Water Infrastructure Investment Program (WIIPS);
  • Continue, strengthen and improve PAVE-NY, EWR and BRIDGE NY in NYSDOT 2020-2024 Capital Program to help municipalities plan for improvements;
  • Establish a CHIPS-like formula for culverts based on the length of culverts within the municipality;
  • Require NYSDOT release a report each year detailing the condition of state-owned roads and bridges;
  • Direct NYSDOT to develop a 20-30-year long-term transportation plan; and
  • Require NYSDOT to submit its capital plan for approval.

“New York State is on the cusp of an infrastructure crisis; too many roads, bridges and sewers are in disrepair and the long-term investments needed to return them to form simply aren’t there. As I’ve said before: without safe and efficient ways to transport goods and resources, our economy will crumble, literally, from the ground up. Every infrastructure dollar matters,” said Assembly Minority Leader Brian M. Kolb (R,C-Canandaigua). “Through the tremendous efforts of this task force, our conference has a report with real, actionable solutions. I look forward to advocating for these proposals and solutions during the upcoming budget process and through the 2019 Legislative Session.”

“New Yorkers are frustrated with the potholes, sinkholes, poorly paved roads and never ending construction projects,” said Assemblyman Dave McDonough (R,C,I-Merrick), Ranking Member on the Committee on Transportation. “Like nearly any problem, the sooner you address it, the faster and more economical it is to solve. We have already fallen too far behind and the time to act is now. We have much work to do, and I am hopeful for real progress in 2019 and beyond.”

“Counties and local governments own 87 percent of the state’s 110,000 miles of roadways and 50 percent of the state’s 18,000 bridges. County leaders are asking for more investments in this critical infrastructure that New Yorkers depend on to get to and from home each day,” said Stephen J. Acquario, Executive Director of the New York State Association of Counties (NYSAC).

“The leaders and members of the Assembly Minority Task Force on Critical Infrastructure and Transportation are to be commended for their willingness to travel throughout the state to listen to those of us on the front lines charged with keeping the local transportation systems and other critical infrastructure in a safe and functioning condition,” said Dennis S. Davis, President of the New York State County Highways Superintendents Association. “The resulting recommendations of the task force report, particularly calling for a significant and multi-year progressive funding commitment to the CHIPS program and enhanced appropriations for local bridge and culvert projects is well received, not only by the highway professionals we represent, but by those motorists who rely on a safe, modern and seamless statewide transportation system to get on with their daily lives.”

“Our aging infrastructure is a reminder of the dangerous backlog of roads and bridges in front of New Yorkers on a daily basis. This report, published by the Assembly Minority Task Force on Critical Infrastructure & Transportation, is another timely call to action for New York State Legislators: step up and invest in the safety and economy of residents across the entire state. The Shufon Report published by Rebuild NY Now in 2018 points out that ‘… over the last five years, on the average, State Highways were resurfaced once every 13.7 years and the treatments only lasted 9.3 years … Deferring treatment increases repair costs exponentially as the pavement structure accumulate more and more damage.’ We deserve better today, next month, next year and in 5-10 years. Thank you to Assemblymen Brian M. Kolb, Phil Palmesano and Kevin Byrne for continuing to fight for the infrastructure future of New York,” said Mike Elmendorf, President and CEO, Associated General Contractors of New York State.

“The New York State Association of Town Superintendents of Highways applauds the efforts of the Assembly Minority Task Force on Critical Infrastructure and Transportation. Our members participated in the various public forums and were impressed by the dialogue as well as the resulting report recommendations. We look forward to working together during the 2019-2020 budget process to support our mutual constituents in making the recommended solutions a reality,” said Pat Mahar, Town of Denmark Highway Superintendent, 2018-19 President of NYS Association of Town Superintendents of Highways, Inc.

“This report defines what local government officials who are tasked with providing vital services to New Yorkers already know: our state faces the reality of widespread aging and deteriorating infrastructure, and we must dedicate significant resources to address it. The amount of CHIPS funding from the state must be increased to address the growing demands for highway, road, and bridge construction and repair in every community throughout New York. Additionally, NYCOM supports a dedicated funding stream to help municipalities address crumbling water, sewer, and storm water infrastructure, as well as emergency repairs to municipally-owned systems that millions of New Yorkers rely upon,” said Peter A. Baynes, Executive Director of New York Conference of Mayors (NYCOM).

The forums were held in Binghamton, Auburn, Smithtown, Hicksville, Greece, Williamsville, Patterson and Cairo. The report can be viewed goo.gl/Fqpttu. For additional copies of the report, please contact the Assembly Minority Office of Public Affairs at 518-455-5073.

Also on FingerLakes1.com