Schumer Reveals: Older Cities Like Syracuse Losing Out As Young Cities Gobble Up Money For New Federal Highway And Bridge Projects

In Addition, Federal Budget Gaps Leaving Nation's Highways And Bridges In A State Of Dangerous Disrepair As President Bush Threatens Veto of New Funding$4 Billion Federal Highway Budget Hole Ties Hands of Older Upstate Cities, Preventing them from Properly Maintaining Aging and Degrading InfrastructureSchumer Calls on President to Remove Veto Threat from Spending Bill that Includes $

Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer, standing on the aging and decrepit Bartell Road Bridge, will reveal that the federal government has woefully under funded highway and bridge maintenance programs, leaving Syracuse's old infrastructure in a state of disrepair Despite 27.1% of the nation's 590,750 bridges rated structurally deficient or functionally obsolete , it's estimated that in 2009 the Federal Highway Trust Fund will be under financed by $4 billion. Exacerbating the financial crisis is that federal funding for constructing new projects far outpaces the funding level for upgrading existing infrastructure. This, in turn, forces older cities, like Syracuse, to fend for themselves when it comes to upgrading local bridges and roads that in some cases are 80 years old.


Schumer announced he will push the President to approve the Senate's transportation bill that increases funding for bridge maintenance by more than $1 billion.


"For far too long, the federal government has been negligent in maintaining and upgrading existing bridges here in Central New York and across the nation, instead foolishly focusing exclusively on constructing new bridges which is why today our infrastructure is crumbling," said Senator Schumer. "Robbing Peter to pay Paul is no way to keep New York drivers safe. It might not be sexy, but our nation's transportation infrastructure is the lifeblood of America's economy and we need to keep it healthy and flowing. The City and State have done the best they can with the resources they get to keep our bridges and highways running safely and efficiently."


Schumer said that the Minnesota bridge collapse exposes a systemic problem with highway and bridge infrastructure across the country, but especially in Syracuse and older cities. While the bridge in Minnesota was only 40 years old, bridges throughout the Syracuse area can be over 80 years old and decades past their useful life. Syracuse is just one of a host of cities across the Northeast whose infrastructure is aging and degrading and in need of a massive overhaul.


In the Central New York region, scores of bridges are over a halfcentury old and in dire need of repairs. The Bartell Road Bridge was built in 1959 but has been deprived of essential repairs for years. Bridges on CR13 DeWiitCicero and on Route 5 were constructed in 1912 and 1927 but are still in use today. Recently, the Seneca River Bridge serving Haiti Island in Cayuga County collapsed, threatening a temporary bridge that sits directly below it and leaving local residents stranded.


Despite repeated examples of dilapidated infrastructure across Central New York and the state's older cities, today Schumer revealed that the distribution federal funding for highways and bridges significantly favors the construction of new projects in younger cities instead of upgrading existing infrastructure in older areas, like Syracuse. A small number of massive new projects tend to gobble up a huge share of federal transportation subsidies leaving a far greater number of older bridges and highways to divide up a smaller pot.


Schumer today said that the gap between what the federal governments actually spends on maintaining and upgrading aging highways and bridges and what the systems needs is widening dramatically.   According to a new report by the U.S. Department of Transportation, the gap between needs and actual spending grew from 8.3 percent to 12.2 percent in 2004. In addition, while spending on bridge maintenance dropped from $12.5 billion in 2004 to $12.4 billion in 2006, spending on highway and bridge expansion grew from $52.9 billion in 2004 to $58.8 billion in 2006.


Schumer said the current problem stems from the Administration blocking significant increases in federal transportation funding pushed by a coalition of Northeastern Senators, led by Schumer. When Congress last passed a major highway funding bill in 2005, the Federal Highway Administration estimated it needed $375 billion to fund repair and improvement projects, but the final bill authorized just $286 billion. The Senate had originally passed the transportation bill at the higher $375 million but the Administration and Congressional Republican's blocked it.


"It's inexcusable that Syracuse and scores of older cities in the Northeast should have their historic bridges and infrastructure put in jeopardy because the federal government has opted to ignore their needs in favor of funding new projects."


By only approving a smaller bill, the Administration has created an enormous gap in federal funding for existing transportation infrastructure, with the "Highway Trust Fund", the pot of money that pays for improvements, on the brink of bankruptcy.   The Office of Management and Budget (OMB), noting that the Federal Highway Trust Fund finances have deteriorated, released new estimates July 11, 2007 showing that the Highway Account is expected to go insolvent by approximately $4 billion in 2009, an increase from its February estimate of $700 million. That deficit will rise to $8.1 billion by 2010.


"This disaster must be a wakeup call to get our nation's transportation infrastructure in order.  For far too long, highways and bridges in Syracuse and across the country have been allowed to degrade to the point of dangerous disrepair.  The Senate has legislation to provide $5 billion for bridge replacement and rehabilitation - we will pas that bill and the President must sign it. We need a comprehensive effort at the federal, state and local level to ensure this type of collapse never happens again."


To close this dramatic funding gap and prevent another disaster, Schumer today called on President Bush to remove his threat to veto the Fiscal Year 2008 Transportation Appropriations Bill that includes $5 billion in new funding for bridge upgrades and maintenance. The Senate version of the Fiscal Year 2008 Transportation Appropriations Bill includes $5.017 billion for bridge replacement and rehab, an increase from $4.123 billion in Fiscal Year 2007. The bill has passed the Senate Appropriations Committee and is expected to be considered by the full Senate this fall.


Schumer today also announced that when the Transportation Appropriations Bill comes to the floor he will introduce an amendment to double funding up to $10 billion exclusively for current bridge repairs and upgrades. This funding would be directed to fixing existing bridges.


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