New York State’s Assembly Minority Conference, led by Brian Kolb, R-Canandaigua, plans to introduce a package of bills to improve funding for the state’s roads, bridges and water and sewer systems. The announcement followed Monday’s release of the task force’s new report, “New York’s Infrastructure: A Report on Fortifying Our Roads, Bridges and Water Systems.”
Among the top infrastructure criticisms noted in the report is the age of the state’s infrastructure. As of late 2017, more than one in 10 state and local bridges were not up to federal standards, according to the report, and a 2018 CNBC study ranked New York’s infrastructure as seventh worst in the country due to the poor state of road, bridge and water system conditions.
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) estimates that for every $1 spent on road, highway and bridge improvements, there is an average benefit of $5.20 yielded from reduced congestion, lower vehicle maintenance costs and lower road and bridge maintenance costs. The report also notes that according to a 2016 report from TRIP, a national transportation research group, deficient roads cost New Yorkers $24.9 billion a year in vehicle operating costs, congestion-related delays and traffic crashes.
“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,” said task force co-chairman Phil Palmesano, R-Corning. “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 (Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program, or CHIPS) 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.”
But securing funding, the report states, is a “never-ending battle.” The Dedicated Highway and Bridge Trust Fund (DHBTF), it states, has been heavily scrutinized in recent years for its inability to adequately fund capital investments.
Last fall, members of the minority conference hosted a series of eight regional forums to discuss topics that impact the state’s transportation and infrastructure. Testimony at the regional forums confirmed that efforts to fix the state’s transportation infrastructure depend on cooperation and commitment from every level of government.
“One sentiment was echoed unanimously at every forum: There is a crucial need for the state to forge a stronger partnership with municipalities and provide more robust and more consistent funding for local road, bridge and water infrastructure,” according to the report.
Municipalities statewide rely on CHIPS funding for maintenance and rehabilitation projects, and for some it is the sole source of their paving budget, but the yearly CHIPS base funding increased just $75 million in the last decade, according to the report.
“The rising costs of construction labor, materials and state-mandated rules and regulations have prevented localities from getting ahead,” the report states.
The report notes that forum speakers expressed concern with many of the state’s regulations, including complying with the 30 percent goal of hiring Minority- and Women-Owned Business Enterprises, difficulties complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act, the way in which CHIPS funding was received and used and the Prevailing Wage rate system, which forum participants described as “a regulatory burden that was overly complex and unreasonably costly, driving project expenses up substantially.”
“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 task force co-chairman Kevin Byrne, R-Mahopac. “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 whole scale reform to the way our state approaches transportation funding before it’s too late.”
Among some of the conference proposals generated from the task force are:
- Ensure funding parity between the upcoming state Department of Transportation and Metropolitan Transportation Authority Five-Year Capital Programs;
- Increase CHIPS base aid by $100 million per year for five years and tie to the consumer price index 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 and 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 programs in the state DOT’s 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 the DOT to release a report each year detailing the condition of state-owned roads and bridges;
- Direct the DOT to develop a 20- to 30-year long-term transportation plan; and
- Require the state DOT 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,” Kolb said. “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.”
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