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Area’s Aging Water-Sewer Infrastructure Is Costing Taxpayers and Local Gov’t Budgets Millions Of Dollars A Year, According To The Senator 

Schumer Says New Infrastructure Plan Would Create Jobs And Provide Federal Funding Needed To Upgrade The Capital Region’s Water-Sewer Systems & Address The Future Of The Livingston Avenue Bridge 

Schumer: The Capital Region Water & Sewer Systems & Livingston Avenue Bridge Need Major Overhauls, This Plan Will Pave Our Way Forward 

Standing next to local officials and construction workers, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer today pushed his infrastructure plan which could be key to addressing the Capital Region’s water and sewer infrastructure and the future of the Livingston Avenue Bridge. Schumer said advancing construction projects like these could create hundreds of jobs and would provide a much-needed boost to the Capital Region economy. In addition to the jobs created. Schumer highlighted how addressing the Capital Region’s water and sewer infrastructure needs would also improve the environment and health of the Hudson River. The region’s current sewer infrastructure is so old and outdated that it combines storm water with sewage, and when heavy rain hits the region millions of gallons of raw sewage is discharged into the Hudson River.

“Across the country and especially in the Capital Region our infrastructure is falling apart. From frequent water main breaks that leave communities in the region without water to the combined sewer overflows that pollute the Hudson River, it’s evident almost every single day that the region’s water and sewer systems are in need of an upgrade. Sadly, the problems don’t stop there, the region’s roads and bridges. The Livingston Avenue Bridge, which is a lynchpin to New York’s rail system, is in desperate need of repair or replacement. As all of these needs pile up, it’s become clear that local governments and taxpayers simply do not have the resources to fix the problem, and that’s why I am calling for a major direct federal investment in infrastructure that would address these sorts of challenges and create millions of new jobs,” said Schumer. “With real direct federal infrastructure funding that revives our economy, improves public safety and avoids crushing local taxpayers with billions of dollars in past neglect. This new infrastructure plan does just that and could provide direct federal resources and investment to fix the Capital Region’s aging water-sewer infrastructure, roads, and bridges.”

In the Capital Region alone, the implications of minimal investment in infrastructure over the last few decades have become increasingly apparent.  Schumer pointed to an American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) report stating that over half of New York’s 17,000 bridges are over 75 years old. The Livingston Avenue Bridge, which is over 1,200 ft in length, is over 115 years old and in desperate need of repair. Schumer said that while is there is no official price tag on the bridge’s replacement, a fair comparison can be found in the Susquehanna River Rail Bridge, which is 110 years old, 6,109 feet long, and its replacement is slated to cost between $800 million and $1 billion. Similarly, Connecticut’s Walk Railroad Bridge, a smaller 562-foot long and 120-year-old swing bridge, is estimated to cost $1 billion to replace. Schumer said it is clear that the price tag for replacing the Livingston Avenue Bridge could be well over $1 billion, a price tag the local and state government’s simply cannot shoulder on their own, but with ample federal support, the project could come to fruition. That is why Schumer is pushing for increased infrastructure investment, which will allow for the Capital Region to take on projects like the Livingston Avenue Bridge.

Schumer said if the Livingston Avenue Bridge were to fail, it would cripple Amtrak passenger service west and north of Albany/Rensselaer station.  Additionally, it could cripple river transportation, affecting not only the Hudson River but the Erie and Champlain Canals as well.

Furthermore, the Capital Region’s water and sewer systems are also starving for federal investment.  New York has some of the oldest sewer systems in America, and they’re in dire need of repair. According to the New York Water Environment Association, New York State has more than 30K of sewer pipe and more than 40% of it is 60 years or older. Schumer added that while the current investment in clean water infrastructure is $200 million, the real need to sure of water and sewer infrastructure is actually around $1 billion. Schumer said since the 1980’s there has been close to a 70 percent reduction in federal funding on water infrastructure. Schumer said with the new infrastructure plan will allow for a greater increase in federal investment which could benefit the Capital Region.

Our aging municipal water systems are constantly in need of repair.  Water main pipes, sometimes well over 100 years old, frequently break in the freezing and thawing of our Northeastern climate.   In 2017, the City of Albany repaired 60 water main breaks and in the first two months of 2018, the City already experienced 29 main breaks.  The work associated with three major sinkhole related water and sewer repairs in 2016 and 2017 cost Albany rate payers over $5 million.  A sinkhole in Lansingburgh in 2016 required temporary repair and permanent replacement that totaled nearly $3.3M. New York State assistance, allowed the City of Troy to avoid a budgetary crisis.

Schumer highlighted that one out of every four of New York’s wastewater facilities is operating beyond its useful life, and 30 percent of New York’s 22,000 miles of underground sewers are more than 60 years old. A report by State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli put New York’s combined water and sewer needs at more than $30 billion. Schumer said the aging infrastructure in the Capital Region could reverse water quality improvements made over the past decades. Across the Hudson River Estuary Watershed more than half of the 1,500 miles of inventoried sewer pipes are 60 years or older, and one in four wastewater treatment plants that discharge directly to the Hudson River are at risk from rising water levels and storm-surge flooding.

Schumer was joined by Albany County Executive Dan McCoy, Albany City Treasurer Darius Shahinfar, Assemblyman John McDonald, Assemblymember Patricia Fahy, Mark Castiglione, Executive Director, Capital Region Planning Commission, Mike Lyons, District Manager, of the Upstate Operating Engineers and his brothers and sisters from Local 158.

Schumer said 16 communities along the Hudson River Watershed rely on combined sewers that carry both storm water and sewage.  After heavy rains, these Combined Sewer Overflows discharge raw sewage from 210 discharge points along the Hudson River, 100 of these are in the “Albany Pool” between Troy and Albany.  According to a Times Union report in July 2017, during a 20-day period last summer, Troy alone dumped 6 million gallons of sewage into the Hudson River.  Schumer said it is likely that on those same days, Albany, Cohoes, Green Island, Watervliet, and Rensselaer all discharged into the river as well.  The Albany Pool Communities, worked cooperatively, with input from the Albany and Rensselaer County Sewer Districts, to prepare a single Plan with a regional approach to abate CSO discharge into the Hudson River and achieve compliance for water quality standards. The 15-year Long Term Control Plan approved by NYSDEC in January of 2014 is comprised of more than 50 projects and programs in which the Pool Communities and Districts will invest a conservatively estimated $136 million in sewer, storm water, and treatment facilities.  With all projects implemented, untreated CSO volume entering the Hudson will be reduced by nearly 50%.

Schumer was joined by Dan McCoy, Albany County Executive; Assemblyman John McDonald, Assembly Member Patricia Fahy, Mark Castiglione, Executive Director of the Capital District Regional Planning Commission, and members of the Operating Engineers Local 158.

Schumer said this new plan would help localities in the Capital Region by making meaningful, lasting investments in their infrastructure. Specifically, the plan would be paid for responsibly through the following five measures:

-          Return The Top Individual Tax Rate Back To 39.6%

•    The Senate GOP’s lowering of the top rate to 37 percent was nothing more than a tax giveaway to the super rich, and such a provision would increase federal revenues to pay for infrastructure improvements by $139 billion over 10 years.

-          Restoring The Individual Alternative Minimum Tax To 2017 Law

•    The AMT ensures that high-income earners cannot avoid taxes by abusing deductions and other loopholes, and returning it to 2017 law would not only ensure the top 1 percent pay their fair share, but it would also increase federal revenues by $429 billion over 10 years.

-          Restoring The Estate And Gift Taxes

•    In their tax bill, Republicans doubled estate tax exemption levels to $11 million for individuals and a whopping $22 million for married couples, a maneuver that benefited only the millionaires and billionaires. This provision would use the $83 billion in federal revenues it would bring back over 10 years to pay for massive infrastructure improvements that would benefit middle-class families.

-          Closing The Carried Interest Loophole

•    Despite campaign promises to end the carried interest loophole, President Trump and the Senate GOP let it continue, enabling Wall Street high fliers to continue disguising their income as capital gains to avoid taxes. Closing this loophole would increase federal revenues by $12 billion over 10 years.

-          Bring The Corporate Tax Rate To 25%

•    Raising the corporate tax rate to a competitive 25 percent would allow American businesses to stay competitive without providing a massive windfall to special interests that results in stock buybacks and CEO bonuses being prioritized over hiring new employees and increasing workers’ pay. Before the Republican tax bill, many corporations supported a 25 percent rate as a fair tax rate.  Reversing this trickle-down economic policy would bring in $359 billion that could be put toward infrastructure improvements across the country.