Saturday, 03 March 2018 11:13

OP ED: More Funding for Roads, Bridges Needed to Help Upstate Economy

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Improving and maintaining local roads and bridges is one investment the state can make that positively impacts our Upstate communities, economies, and motorists. Yet during budget season it is always a challenge to ensure enough state dollars are invested in this type of infrastructure for Upstate.

There are a few key programs in the budget which provide critical funding for local road paving, bridge and culvert work which, if properly funded, have proven to help ease the burden for local property taxpayers Upstate. One successful and long-standing program is the Consolidated Highway Improvement Program (CHIPs) which benefits localities directly. After the budget passes, the New York State Department of Transportation awards CHIPs funding to localities based on a formula that considers local highway miles and motor vehicle registrations. Most local officials agree that the way funds are dispersed through CHIPs is fair.

For years, however, funding for CHIPs saw no increase despite rising costs associated with highway maintenance and repair. Advocacy does make a difference. Thanks to continued pressure placed on the Governor and the Speaker of the Assembly by me and more than 100 other lawmakers along with local highway superintendents, municipalities are receiving between 50-55% more than they were 5 years ago through CHIPs and other infrastructure programs designed to assist local highway maintenance projects and repairs. This year we are pushing for an additional $85 million to bring the total CHIPs allocation to $523.1 million—up from the proposed $438.1 million. This would help localities keep with the rising costs of asphalt, equipment, and labor.

We have also been successful in getting additional initiatives funded to help pay for similar infrastructure projects. PAVE-NY and BRIDGE-NY were created in the 2016 budget and for the past two years, $100 million has been allocated to each fund. The state uses the same formula as CHIPs to allocate funds through PAVE-NY and BRIDGE-NY is a competitive grants program. The executive budget proposal maintains each of these programs at last year’s funding level of $100 million.

Unfortunately, the proposed budget eliminates an important program that has also proven to be successful for localities particularly in Upstate known as the Extreme Winter Recovery fund. In 2014, $40 million was allocated to this program which was the first year it was made available to localities. In 2015, $50 million was allocated to this fund. For reasons that are unclear, funding was not made available in 2016. Last year, however, $65 million was allocated to this fund. This year, the Governor’s proposed budget does not include any funding for this program which has become essential to municipalities to be able to invest in road projects that will stand up to freezing temperatures and necessary snow removal.

This week I plan to meet with local highway superintendents and together we will push for additional funding for infrastructure in this budget. Every additional dollar of state support for our roads and bridges means a dollar less that our local property taxpayers have to pay. Investments in roads and bridges are important to economic growth, an attraction for developers, and catalyst for job creation throughout the Central and Northern New York areas.

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 North Second Street, Fulton, New York 13069, by e-mail at [email protected] or by calling (315) 598-5185. You can also friend me, Assemblyman Barclay, on Facebook.

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