SCHUMER: MORE THAN 2,200 UPSTATE NY BRIDGES IN DIRE NEED OF REPAIRS ARE AT RISK OF BEING SHORT-CHANGED FOR REPAIR PROJECTS DUE TO OUTDATED FUNDING FORMULA SENATOR PUSHES TO INCLUDE MORE FUNDS FOR LOCAL BRIDGE REPAIRS IN TRANSPORTATION BILL CURRENTLY MOVING THROUGH CONGRESS
Annual Federal Funding To Help Maintain Local Bridges is Not Enough To Keep Up With Demands & Transportation Bill Currently Being Considered in Congress Would Not Allow Any Increase In Funding Through 2020 With Bridges Across The State Aging & Construction Costs Rising, Pressure is Increasing on Local Communities and Taxpayers Schumer Pushes Amendment That Would Increase NYS Local Bridge Funding by Almost $50M per Year to Reduce Risk of Widespread Closures, Worse Emergency Respo
Today, on a conference call with reporters, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer launched his push to increase federal funding for local bridge repair projects, which are currently receiving the same funding allocation for repairs and maintenance as they did in 2009 and are at risk of being shortchanged for at least another six years. Schumer explained that New York State currently receives $71 million per year from the federal government that must be spent on repairs and maintenance of local bridges not on the federal aid system, and the transportation bill currently moving through Congress would lock this same funding level in until 2020, despite the fact that many of these bridges are deteriorating faster than local communities can repair them. Therefore, Schumer announced that he is cosponsoring bipartisan legislation that would increase total funding for these local bridges by almost $50 million per year, and will push to have it included in the transportation bill currently moving through congress. According to Schumer, this increase in funding is absolutely vital to help local towns and counties keep up with the cost of maintaining over 2,200 bridges across New York State that rely on federal aid through this allocation and are at risk of closure because they are listed as either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.
"Keeping our bridges in good health is a top priority for communities across the state, but towns and counties have had to make upgrades and repairs with a limited amount of federal funding to cover the costs," said Schumer. "More and more of our local bridges are in need of repairs each year, but local budgets have gotten tighter and federal funding to maintain these smaller bridges has not kept up with demand. Now that we are considering a new transportation bill in Congress, it is the perfect opportunity to finally provide towns and counties with the funding for local bridges they deserve, and this bipartisan legislation does just that. It brings local bridge funding levels up to a sensible amount instead of keeping them stagnant for a decade, and I will fight to ensure that Congress gets this done."
"Counties in New York maintain over 9,000 local bridges, many of which are structurally deficient and in need of replacement or repair," said Stephen J. Acquario, executive director of the New York State Association of Counties. "We need to renew our federal focus on local bridges, and Senator Schumer's support of this legislation comes at the ideal time. County leaders applaud Senator Schumer for this increased funding as it will help address over 2,000 upstate bridges, providing important jobs, stimulating the state and local economy and ensuring the safety of the motoring public."
"Albany County's budget is tight and we have 23 bridges that have been deemed functionally obsolete or structurally deficient," said Albany County Executive Daniel P. McCoy. "We need every bit of financial help we can get to repair our bridges. I applaud Senator Schumer for recognizing our needs and working to provide us some relief."
"As owners of 40% percent of bridges across the country, local governments look to partner with our federal representatives to assure adequate funding is allocated to the local highway system," said Bill Wright, P.E., Commissioner of Public Works for Ontario County. "Senator Schumer's plan to increase the setaside for local bridges is exactly one of the changes that will help find funds for the four bridges I have designed, and are now ready to be built, but were shut out of funding under the expiring MAP21 legislation."
"In Chautauqua County we work hard to maintain our local roads and bridges, but often times there is simply not enough funding available to keep pace with the depreciation of infrastructure," said Chautauqua County Executive Vince Horrigan. "Senator Schumer's efforts to increase the federal funding available to local bridges is critical to help communities all across the state repair bridges and prevent unsafe driving conditions and bridge closures."
Counties and towns across New York State rely on a specific allocation of federal funding to maintain and repair many of their local bridges, specifically the 7,464 local bridges across the state that are not on the federalaid system ("offsystem bridges"). Unfortunately, the dollar amount allotted for these bridges has not increased in five years because the MAP21 transportation bill, passed in 2012, locked in the amount of funding specifically allocated for offsystem bridges at 15% of total 2009 federal bridge funding. In the case of New York, that means the state receives approximately $71 million per year to spend on offsystem bridges, a number that has not increased since 2009. On the other hand, funding for the 9,992 other New York State bridges that are considered part of the federal highway system has increased over time at the rate of inflation.
Schumer said that it is unacceptable that funding has not increased for local, offsystem bridges, particular when so many of them - 2,268 in total in Upstate New York - have been found to be "functionally obsolete" or "structurally deficient." These designations mean that either elements of the bridge have been found to have significant deterioration, the bridge no longer conforms to current design standards, or a waterway below frequently rises above the bridge during floods. It also means they are at risk of closure.
Schumer explained that there is currently a bill moving through Congress to reauthorize federal highway spending - The MAP21 Reauthorization Bill. As it is currently written, this bill does not increase funding for offsystem bridges. Instead, it keeps funding for offsystem bridges in New York at the 2009 level of $71 million through 2020, which, if passed as it is currently written, would mean the dollar amount dedicated to these local bridges would not have increased for an entire decade.
Instead of maintaining the status quo for offsystem bridges, Schumer announced that he is cosponsoring legislation, and will push to have that legislation included in the Transportation Bill, that would increase total funding for these local bridges by almost $50 million per year. This legislation would increase the funding amount for offsystem bridges from 15% of the 2009 total to 25% of the 2009 total, which would bring New York State's total from $71 million to $119 million. Schumer is cosponsoring this bipartisan legislation with Senators Bob Casey (DPA) and Roy Blunt (RMO).
Keeping offsystem bridges in a state of good repair is of the upmost importance because bridges that are deemed functionally obsolete or structurally deficient will often have speed and weight limits placed on them. And, if one of these bridges is deemed unsafe for passage, it will be closed immediately. For many towns across Upstate New York, the result of closing a single bridge could be disastrous - it could increase traffic, become a drag on the economy and make it harder for emergency personnel to access people's homes. Schumer explained that is why it is so vital to ensure we are providing more funding for offsystem bridges.
Schumer noted that there are currently 2,268 offsystem bridges in Upstate New York that are considered either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, and provided the following breakdown of bridges per region:
· In the Capital Region, there are an estimated 400 bridges that are either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.
· In the RochesterFinger Lakes Region, there are 205 bridges that are either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.
· In the Southern Tier, there are 412 bridges that are either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.
· In Western New York, there are 208 bridges that are either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.
· In Central New York, there are 302 bridges that are either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.
· In the Hudson Valley, there are 423 bridges that are either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.
· In the North Country, there are 318 bridges that are either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.
In addition to pushing for more funding for offsystem bridges as part of the transportation bill currently being considered by Congress, Schumer also vowed to continue pushing for more funding for the overall highway program.
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