SCHUMER URGES FEDS TO WORK WITH STATE AND LOCAL OFFICIALS TO HELP UNLOCK FED DOLLARS SO EVERY PENNY CAN STAY WITHIN LOCAL COMMUNITIES; NEARLY TWO DOZEN ORANGE, ULSTER & SULLIVAN COUNTY MUNICIPALITIES ARE LOCKED OUT OF USING ROUGHLY $8 MILLION IN FED FUNDS TO PROPEL CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECTS, LIKE COMPLETING GROVE DRIVE BRIDGE IN TUXEDO
Previously, Communities Throughout Orange, Ulster & Sullivan Counties Secured Millions in Federal Funds For Projects, Some of Which Are No Longer Needed; Until Now, Fed Rules Have Blocked Reuse Of Dollars, Even In Adjacent Area
Schumer Pushes to Unlock Leftover Money So Municipalities Can Use It Locally, For Other Worthwhile Projects – Schumer-Backed Law Now Key To Unlocking Long-Awaited Federal Dollars; Senator Urges State To Unlock, Then Direct Funds To Local Communities
Schumer: These Fed Funds Could Kick-Start Even More Valuable Local Projects
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today called on the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) to unlock more than $7.8 million in previously secured federal transportation funding for 22 transportation projects across Orange, Ulster and Sullivan Counties, by helping to repurpose previously appropriated funds from complete or obsolete projects. Schumer explained that, previously, communities in the Mid-Hudson region were awarded nearly $8 million in earmarks to propel local infrastructure projects. However, in many cases, only a small portion of the funds were spent on the original project, or the projects were deemed no longer necessary and the remaining funds were left unused. Until now, federal rules blocked the reuse of funds even if the project was no longer needed or part of a wider plan. However, a newly enacted, Schumer-backed law now gives FHWA and NYSDOT the authority to repurpose any unspent money to newer projects nearby that are needed. This means there is new hope to both unlock these funds and put them to good use on local projects, like the desperately needed completion of Grove Drive Bridge in Tuxedo. In addition, this change will ensure that the remaining $7.8 million in taxpayer funds will not be wasted or simply locked away in a federal account.
“When it comes to using our precious road and infrastructure investments, we need to be flexible and smart. And redirecting these already-appropriated funds to high-priority projects, like the reconstruction of the Grove Drive Bridge in Tuxedo, makes all the sense in the world: it puts people to work, helps complete an important local project and boosts quality of life and the regional economy as whole,” said U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer. “We have the means to unlock this money, and the FHWA and NYSDOT should swiftly approve requests from local communities to re-allocate these funds, so we can put them towards other forward-looking local projects. These funds were designated for our local Orange, Ulster and Sullivan County municipalities, and they must remain in those communities where they belong.”
Schumer explained that, previously, Congress approved earmarks for 22 projects in Orange, Ulster and Sullivan Counties – for a combined total of roughly $7.8 million. However, only a fraction of that was actually used. Schumer highlighted Grove Drive Bridge in Tuxedo as an example. Due to the undercapitalization of the Grove Drive Bridge Reconstruction and the total deficit of $1 million, this critical project has been unable to be completed. With these reallocated funds, Orange County would be able to complete the project in 2017. Schumer explained that Orange County was legally prevented from spending on other more pressing or important projects until the Schumer supported provision passed late last year.
Schumer therefore called on the FHWA and New York State to work with the state and these local municipalities to ensure these funds stay in Mid-Hudson Region municipalities, where they belong. By unlocking these funds and allowing municipalities across Orange, Ulster and Sullivan Counties to use them for worthwhile projects instead – like the reconstruction of Grove Drive Bridge in Tuxedo – Schumer said these local communities would be able to use the funds for local infrastructure needs to keep the money where it was meant to be invested. Schumer also explained that, in some situations, communities may still want to use these funds for their original purpose, and in those cases, the FHWA should work with those communities to ensure that can happen and the original project moves forward as soon as possible.
In 2015, Schumer fought to secure a provision in the omnibus spending bill – the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 – that allows states to repurpose unspent federal funds originally earmarked for specific purposes more than 10 years ago, where at least 90 percent of the funds remained unobligated. Because many of these proposed projects are located within 50 miles of the original project and meets these requirements, they could be eligible to take advantage of this provision.
A copy of Schumer’s letter to the FHWA appears below:
Dear Administrator Nadeau and Commissioner Driscoll,
I write to ask that the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) work closely with the New York State Department of Transportation to ensure counties, towns, and villages in the Hudson Valley can adequately access funds from existing unspent federal earmarks. These dollars, many of which were secured for important local projects, can and should remain available to communities throughout the Hudson Valley. Specifically, I ask for your help, support, and coordination in working with communities to determine which of their unspent federal earmarks should be repurposed and then also work with the community to spend those dollars on the most pressing and impactful local projects.
As you are aware, a provision I helped pass in the Omnibus Appropriations Bill at the end of 2015 allows NYSDOT, with the help of FHWA, the power to repurpose earmarks that were originally intended for projects that may no longer be needed. This provision can be incredibly helpful in freeing up local dollars that would otherwise have remained unused and wasted. By working with communities to use this new flexibility, NYSDOT can help ensure that impactful and important projects throughout the Hudson Valley move forward as quickly as possible. In some situations, communities may still want to use these funds for their original purpose, and in those cases I'd ask that you work those communities to not only ensure that happens but also on moving forward with the original project as soon as possible.
Additionally, this new provision gives NYSDOT and FHWA wide latitude when working with communities to identify needs. Throughout the Hudson Valley there are a number of projects - including new bike and pedestrian trails, Main Street revitalization efforts, and outdated and unsafe bridge replacement projects - all of which could benefit from this newly provided flexibility.
With this in mind, I offer my full support to communities throughout the Hudson Valley seeking to repurpose old federal funds to new and important projects and I ask that you work with these communities to help make the best use out of this newly granted regulatory flexibility. If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact my staff or me.
Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator