Coalition Urges Gov. Cuomo, State Lawmakers To Increase NYDOT Capital Plan to $35 Billion
John Jordan | January 22, 2020
ELMSFORD—The Rebuild NY Now coalition is asking Gov. Andrew Cuomo, state lawmakers and officials with the New York State Department of Transportation to significantly increase capital spending for the maintenance, repair and replacement of the state’s road and bridge network.
At a press conference held on Jan. 17, construction industry executives, organized labor officials, state, county and municipal political leaders decried the conditions of state roads in Westchester County and called for a more than 20% increase in the NYSDOT’s five-year capital plan. The current five-year capital plan, which expires on March 31, 2020, totals $29.2 billion; Rebuild NY is calling for the next five-year capital program to be increased from $29.2 billion to at least $35 billion.
The event organized by the Construction Industry Council of Westchester & Hudson Valley, Inc. and hosted by International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local #456, featured a host of state representatives, Westchester County Executive George Latimer and Greenburgh Town Supervisor Paul Feiner, who all advocated for increased highway and bridge funding in the next NYSDOT five-year capital plan to fix what they termed is the state’s infrastructure crisis.
The Rebuild NY coalition is looking to convince Gov. Cuomo of the need for increased road and bridge spending in advance of the release of the 2020 budget in coming weeks. The governor and State Legislature are facing a $6-billion budget gap, due mainly to rising Medicaid costs.
Theresa Burke, secretary of the New York State Association of Town Superintendents of Highways, said that nearly half of New York State’s local roads and bridges are in fair or poor condition. She added that local governments statewide would have to spend an additional $1.75 billion annually (not including New York City’s infrastructure) just to bring the system up to the level of good repair.
Burke, who is Highway Superintendent for the Town of Red Hook in Dutchess County, said that the Consolidated Highway Improvement Program (CHIPs) should be increased in the 2020-2021 budget from $438 million a year to $588 million; the Bridge New York program should have funding raised from $100 million a year to $200 million; the Pave New York funding levels hiked from $100 million to $200 million and local and federal construction ratcheted up from $100 million to $200 million.
Among her other recommendations included the creation of a five-year $400-million City Routes program to assist municipalities charged with maintaining state tourism routes, including necessary sewer, water and utility work. Ms. Burke also related that the state should determine whether the Marchiselli Program is adequately funded at its current level of $39.7 million per year,
“These suggested increases are necessary in order to provide the public with a safe and functional transportation system, one that supports jobs and economic growth for our communities,” she said.
John Cooney, executive director of the Tarrytown-based CIC, said, “Funding of our infrastructure is a smart investment. Our investment is falling behind. It puts people to work and provides living wage jobs.”
Among the host of elected officials who offered remarks at the press event included State Sen. Peter Harckham, who said that examples of the state’s crumbling infrastructure are evident on many state roads and bridges and should make the case for “the pressing need to repair, restore and renovate our critical infrastructure, especially roadways, bridges and transportation hubs.”
While acknowledging Gov. Cuomo’s call for a $3-billion environmental bond act and a projected $6-billion budget deficit, Sen. Harckham said that the state can find the necessary revenue and funding sources to improve its roads and bridges. He noted that lending rates are at historic low levels at the moment.
“It’s time for comprehensive investments in our state’s infrastructure, strong, collaborative leadership and a momentous commitment to assessing what needs to be done—and then completing the work,” Sen. Harckham said. “Moreover, these investments are proven to grow our economy, attract business and create good paying jobs.”
A host of organized labor leaders were on hand at the press conference to lend support to the Rebuild NY’s efforts.
Louis Picani, president of Teamster’s Local #456, said the turnout at the event and participation by construction management and organized labor organizations, along with the support of elected officials from state, county and local governments, clearly show that infrastructure funding must be a priority.
“The neglect and erosion of infrastructure in New York State and here in Westchester County is an unfortunate sight,” Picani said. “We were provided with strong infrastructure proudly built by generations before us and because of the lack of maintenance those foundations that were once resilient are now crumbling beyond repair.”
He continued, “Rebuilding and revitalizing our transportation infrastructure should be prioritized to address the crucial role for employees of present and future generations. Action needs to be taken immediately to remedy this infrastructure crisis as conditions are worsening with each passing day.”
Westchester County Executive Latimer said the county has been attempting to increase capital spending on county roadways and noted that the federal government must also commit to increased spending and approve a long-term transportation infrastructure spending plan.
“Federal infrastructure improvement should be the bi-partisan issue of America today,” County Executive Latimer said. “There should be a discussion of the ways and means, but not a discussion of the necessity of doing it.”
Construction and regional business trades organizations have also been advocating for $500 million to be included in the next NYSDOT capital plan to fund the expansion of Route 17 in Orange County and to undertake the improvements necessary to upgrade the vital roadway to federal interstate status (I-86).