Weekly Feature

2015-02-26 / Local News

Senate looks to increase funding for road improvements

Officials are calling for an increase in state funding for local road improvements in this year’s state budget.

Sen. Tim Kennedy, D-Cheektowaga, and Sen. Marc Panepinto, D-Orchard Park, were among those who signed a letter asking Gov. Andrew Cuomo for increased funding, citing the effects of the 2014-15 winter and New York State’s $5 billion onetime surplus.

According to an October 2014 report from TRIP, a national transportation research group, only 53 percent of roads in New York State are rated as either “good” or “excellent,” which is below TRIP’s suggested goal of 75 percent.

Kennedy and Panepinto are suggesting a $200 million increase in Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program funding. They are also asking for an extra $100 million for New York State’s Extreme Weather Program, which focuses on helping municipalities improve roads damaged by harsh weather conditions, and $200 million for Deficient Bridge Emergency Repair.

According to an analysis by the Senate Democratic Conference, the three proposals would create more than 13,000 jobs statewide, both in temporary construction jobs and also permanent jobs created as a result of lowered transportation costs.

Likewise, the Federal Highway Administration estimates that consumers save $5.20 for every dollar spent on road improvements as a result of factors including reduced delays, lower vehicle maintenance costs and improved safety.

A separate study by TRIP cites nearly $5 billion in vehicle maintenance costs for New Yorkers as a result of poorly-maintained roads. When maintenance is deferred, the opposite occurs, with the Cornell Local Roads Program estimating that every $1 in deferred maintenance adds an additional $4 or $5 in future repair costs.

“Upstate, and specifically Western New York, are taking another beating this winter,” Kennedy said. “We cannot afford to defer maintenance on local roads and bridges once more. Study after study shows that well-maintained roads have a direct impact on the local economy.”

Panepinto echoed Kennedy’s call to increase investment and local bridge aid for the region.

“The call for an increase in funding is more important now than ever because, unique to us in Western New York, we have been hit by nearly 45 consecutive days of snow. Because of this, we will not know the full impact to our roads and infrastructure until it completely melts in the coming months,” Panepinto said.

Kennedy worked last year with his colleagues to secure $40 million in extra local road funding, through the creation of the Extreme Weather Program, citing the poor state of local roads after the freeze-thaw effects of the polar vortex throughout the winter.

Kennedy is again calling for investment in local infrastructure. According to the study by TRIP, nearly six out of every seven miles of roads in New York State are maintained by counties and municipalities, along with more than half of the state’s estimated 9,000 bridges.

“We need to make sure that Upstate and Western New York is seeing its fair share of this $5 billion surplus,” Kennedy said. “New York State is facing over $34 billion in local road and bridge projects over the next 15 years; this proposed increase gets us back on the right path to making sure those projects happen on time and on budget.”

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