06.21.16

SCHUMER, GILLIBRAND LAUNCH PUSH TO SECURE FIRST OF ITS KIND, $5 MILLION FEDERAL GRANT TO REPLACE FAILING, LEAD-BASED PAINT PROTECTION SYSTEM ON THE OGDENSBURG-PRESCOTT INTERNATIONAL BRIDGE – SENATORS SAY NEW SYSTEM WILL PREVENT CORROSION OF THE BRIDGE, WHICH IS A MAJOR POINT OF ENTRY AND COMMERCE FOR THE NORTH COUNTRY

Currently, Lead-Based Paint Protection System Covers Steel Spans Along The Ogdensburg-Prescott Bridge, Which Is Critical Link Between U.S. & Canada – But Present System Is Not Only Failing, But Posing Hazard To Area Ecosystems

Schumer, Gillibrand Push For Major Federal Grant of $5 Million From Fed Dept. Of Transportation That Would Replace Current System With Zinc-Based Paint Protection System – Senators Say Modernized System Will Protect Spans & Help Avert Potentially Significant Lead-Based Threat To Environment and Public Health

Schumer, Gillibrand: Ogdensburg Bridge Improvements Are Critical To Bolstering North Country & Protecting Environment

U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand today launched their push to secure more than $5 million critical federal funding for the Ogdensburg-Prescott International Bridge. Specifically, Schumer and Gillibrand are urging the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to allocate a first of its kind, $5,013,600 grant through the new FASTLANE program, which Schumer and Gillibrand fought to create. Schumer and Gillibrand said this funding would allow the Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority to replace the failing, lead-based paint protection system on the bridge. The Senators explained that this bridge serves as a critical link between the Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority in Northern New York and Johnstown, located in Ontario, Canada, which is an important avenue for international commerce between the two. However, the current system used to cover and protect the steel girder spans is nearing the end of its usable life and no longer provides adequate protection from corrosion. On top of this, the lead-based substance could post a potential risk to the environment. Therefore, Schumer and Gillibrand said a more environmentally friendly and substantial, zinc-based protection system would not only present fewer threats to area ecosystems but also ensure this bridge is capable of supporting the international economic activity upon which the North Country heavily relies.

“The Ogdensburg-Prescott Bridge is a critical artery to cross-border commerce and is the lifeblood of Northern New York’s regional economy – but the bridge’s infrastructure needs an upgrade now. We need to invest in these much-needed improvements to keep visitors and commerce flowing into the North Country, and to keep the threat of lead negatively impacting both area ecosystems and residents’ health off the table. Securing this $5 million in federal funding will finally allow the Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority to replace this lead-based system with one that is capable of avoiding a potential environmental hazard to the area and protecting the bridge spans for years to come,” said Senator Schumer. “I’m pushing the DOT to approve these funds as soon as possible because these improvements would provide a shot in the arm for area businesses, help sustains jobs and pave the way for greater economic development in the future.”

“This is a major investment that would help strengthen our transportation infrastructure here in the North Country,” said Senator Gillibrand. “The Ogdensburg-Prescott Bridge is an important economic anchor in the region and it is critical to remove any potential environmental hazards. I am urging the DOT to provide these funds to help safeguard this bridge and allow for critical repairs to keep commuters and communities safe. With this funding we can move forward with much-needed upgrades, starting with removing lead-based contaminants to prevent exposure and keep residents safe. This comprehensive project would help keep the tax burden off of local families.”  

Schumer and Gillibrand successfully fought to pass the long-term, 5-year federal transportation bill, the FAST (Fixing America’s Surface Transportation) Act, in Congress this year. Under the FAST Act, New York State alone will receive over $16.5 billion in transportation funding over the next five years – an increase of over $1.5 billion above previous investment levels. Furthermore, the FAST Act created a new dedicated discretionary program called FASTLANE. The FASTLANE program funds critical highway and freight projects or regional or national significance and was provided $4.5 billion over the five years of the bill – including $800 million to give out in grants this year alone.

Schumer and Gillibrand are looking to secure $5 million in federal funds through this FASTLANE program, as a modernized zinc-based paint system will protect these bridge spans to bolster international commerce as well as help avert a potentially significant lead-based threat to the environment. The Senators explained that the 1.5-mil bridge – which links the U.S. and Canada in Northern New York State at the St. Lawrence River – is a crucial part of the regional transportation network, and is instrumental in the region’s continued economic vitality. Previous years’ estimates have suggested that the Ogdensburg area and the entire North Country benefit from approximately $1.4 billion in imports and a similar amount in exports annually due to the bridge. The bridge is also a significant asset to Northern New York because the area suffers from one of the highest unemployment rates in the state.

Schumer and Gillibrand also said that the bridge’s modernization is critical for the surrounding environment. This is because, as the lead-based system deteriorates, the lead paint chips that fall away introduce an environmental hazard to the surrounding ecosystem. According to Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority, the proposed zinc-based system would provide enhanced protection against the elements, leading to increased longevity for the girders, and will be more environmentally sound than the lead-based system.  This bridge improvement project is estimated to cost roughly $8,356,000.

A copy of Schumer’s letter to the DOT appears below:

Dear Secretary Foxx:

We are pleased to write in support of the Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority (OBPA)’s application for funding through the Department of Transportation’s FASTLANE grant program.  Such funding will enable the Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority to replace the failing lead-based paint protection system on the steel girder spans of the Ogdensburg-Prescott International Bridge.

The Ogdensburg-Prescott International Bridge connects the City of Ogdensburg in Northern New York to Johnstown, Ontario, Canada, and is a critical part of the regional transportation network.  The Bridge is a major point of entry between the United States and Canada and is an important avenue for international commerce between the two, in addition to its economic contributions to the regional economy.  The Port Authority has performed numerous upgrades to modernize the bridge in recent years, and this project represents a continuation of this essential upkeep.

With funding, the OBPA will replace the lead-based paint protection system on the U.S. and Canadian approaches of the Ogdensburg-Prescott International Bridge with a zinc-based paint system.  The current lead-based system covers the Bridge’s steel girder spans and was installed in the 1960s, but is reaching the end of its service life and no longer provides adequate protection from corrosion.  As the lead-based system deteriorates, the lead chips that fall away also present an environmental hazard to the surrounding ecosystem.  According to OBPA, the proposed zinc-based system will provide enhanced protection against the elements, leading to increased longevity for the girders, and will be more environmentally sound than the lead-based system.  The Bridge is a crucial part of the regional transportation network, and is instrumental in the region’s continued economic vitality.  We applaud the Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority for its foresight, and sincerely hope the application meets with your approval.

Thank you for your consideration.  For additional information, please do not hesitate to contact our staff.

Sincerely,

Charles E. Schumer

United States Senator

Kirsten Gillibrand

United States Senator

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