Increased State Funding for Critical Bridge Repairs

With the winter fast approaching and the need for serious preparation to address the cold, ice and snow in high gear, county leaders are renewing their call for a long-term systemic solution to the disrepair of New York’s road and bridge infrastructure. Dangerous bridge deficiencies have left commuters stranded and New York county leaders and transportation officials concerned. Earlier this month the Champlain Bridge in Essex was closed because of deteriorating conditions, dismantling the only commuting route for thousands of New Yorkers.With almost 40 percent of the State’s bridges in disrepair, county elected leaders and local highway chiefs today renew our call to State leaders and transportation officials to dedicate state dollars to securing some of the more than 17,000 state and local bridges that are either functionally obsolete or structurally deficient.“The time for quick fixes is over,” said NYSAC Executive Director Stephen J. Acquario. “We need to invest in long-term repair with an ongoing preventative maintenance program. We can ill afford to close bridges that New Yorkers use on their daily commute. We need to invest adequate resources to make these much needed repairs so we can keep our people and our economy moving in the right direction.”Local bridges owned and maintained by counties, towns, villages and cities make up half of the State’s total bridges. They connect the roads that enable and promote commerce, carry New York children to and from school and serve as the byways for millions of commuters each day.Recently the Bachelorville Bridge connecting communities in Saratoga and Fulton counties was reported to have hazardous deterioration of steel occurring, and is facing potential closure. “This bridge provides a vital economic connection for many communities in the Mohawk Valley and the North Country. If we fail to address the issues facing this bridge then we are failing the residents of this entire region of New York,” said Saratoga County Supervisor Jean Raymond, who represents the Town of Edinburg.The New York State Department of Transportation (DOT) inspects all of the state’s bridges at least every two years and reports its findings. February’s 2009 report indicates that 37 percent of the State’s 17,378 bridges are either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. The report shows that 26.1 percent of the 6,189 county-maintained bridges also fall under that category. “This is a troubling statistic and it demonstrates the long-ignored deterioration of our critical transportation infrastructure. We should not wait until we have to close down any more bridges to address this problem,” said NYSAC President Tom Santulli, who also serves as the Chemung County Executive. “We need to designate additional state transportation resources toward local bridge repair and we need to do it as soon as possible. If our state is to attract business, one of the key indicators is a safe and reliable infrastructure. We need to invest in our economy and on our future, and roads and bridges play a critical role in this regard.”NYSAC and the NYS County Highway Superintendents Association have stressed the need to reestablish a popular and successful program called State Aid to Local Bridge (SALB) program that was last used in 1988 as part of the State’s Transportation Bond Act. The program streamlined State funding directly to counties for bridge reconstruction. “It’s a local economic stimulus package providing needed repairs and putting hundreds of New Yorkers to work on local bridge construction,” said Santulli.“It is vital to the economic development of the State that we devote substantial new investments in our system of local bridges,” said Don Higgins, Livingston County Highway Superintendent and president of the NYS County Highway Superintendents Association. “We are urging Governor Paterson, state lawmakers and transportation officials to adequately fund road and bridge maintenance.”“The size and scope of the problem is simply beyond the means for local taxpayers to address, this is a matter of state concern and it should be addressed soon before the situation becomes much, much worse,” added NYSAC President Santulli.The New York State Association of Counties is a bipartisan municipal association serving all 62 counties of New York State including the City of New York. Organized in 1925, NYSAC’s mission is to represent, educate and advocate for Member Counties and the thousands of elected and appointed county officials who serve the public.

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