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Local highway officials join Ortt to call for restored CHIPS funding


Fri, Mar 15th 2024 12:55 pm

Submitted by the Niagara County Public Information Office

Niagara County Commissioner of Public Works Garret Meal and Orleans County Commissioner of Public Works John Papponetti joined New York State Sen. Rob Ortt and several town highway superintendents from both counties at a press conference to push back against Gov. Kathy Hochul’s proposed budget cuts to the CHIPS program. The CHIPS program is an important source of funding for road maintenance and improvement projects.

“Local roads and bridges are essential to our communities, and need regular maintenance and continued investments to guarantee a strong economy and better future for our residents,” Ortt said. “This job is made more difficult by skyrocketing costs for materials and labor, in addition to proposed funding cuts by the governor. I am proud to stand alongside our local highway and public works officials calling for an increase in state funding to CHIPS and in support of critical investments in our infrastructure.”

Meal said, “Gov. Hochul’s executive recommends cutting CHIPS funding by $60 million and state touring route aid by $40 million – a $100 million drop in local road funding. At the same time, we have been hit with record-high inflation of nearly 60% on highway construction materials, which obviously sends the cost for projects through the roof. So, a combination of less funding and much higher costs means fewer projects getting done, which translates into further deterioration of our infrastructure.”

Papponetti said, “To put what we are talking about into perspective, local roads account for 87% of all roads in the state and carry 48% of all the vehicle miles traveled, yet less than 12% of taxes and fees paid to the state by these drivers go back to maintaining local road. It costs five times more to rebuild a bridge and 16 times more to replace pavements that have become deficient than maintenance treatments and repairs to (keep) our infrastructure in a state of good repair. This is not a time to be cutting, but a time to be increasing our investment in local roads and bridges.”

According to NYSDOT’s latest bridge inspection report over the past three years (2020-22), an additional 1.25 million square-feet of local bridge decks have become deficient. Local bridge decks are declining at more than twice the rate of state bridge decks. This is the equivalent to nearly 20 lane miles of local bridge decks becoming deficient in just the past three years. Furthermore, a 2023 update of a study conducted for the NYS Association of Town Superintendents of Highways, shows an additional $2.1 billion in annual spending is needed to address declining local road and bridge conditions, excluding New York City.

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