Senators: Extra $200 million for CHIPs would only be a "chip" out of $5 billion surplus
State: 47 percent of local roads in in need of rehabilitation
Democrat Buffalo-based State Sens. Tim Kennedy and Marc Panepinto were joined by colleagues throughout the state, as they called today for a major increase in state funding for local road improvements in this year's budget, citing the effects of the harsh 2014-15 winter and New York's $5 billion one-time surplus. According to an October report from TRIP, a national transportation research group, only 53 percent of roads in New York are rated as either "good" or "excellent," far below TRIP's suggested goal of 75 percent.
Kennedy, Panepinto and Senate Democrats are suggesting a $200 million increase in Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program (CHIPs) funding, along with 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.
An analysis by the Senate Democratic conference stated 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 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 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," said Kennedy, a member of the Senate transportation committee. "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. With Buffalo located 500 miles from 60 percent of Canada's population and 40 percent of the United States' population, totaling 147 million people, we have no shortage of reasons to make sure our roads are in top shape. As we continue budget negotiations, I urge my colleagues to join me in fighting for increased transportation funding."
Panepinto said, "I am proud to join Sen. Kennedy in calling for increased investment and local bridge aid for our region. 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.
"More funding is desperately needed given the environmental realities of this harsh winter season. I hope the governor can give our request serious consideration as we head into budget season."
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. With New York on a more stable financial footing, Kennedy is again calling for investment in local infrastructure as the lifeblood of the local economy. According to the study by TRIP, nearly six out of every seven miles of roads in New York 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 added. "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."