Stimulus restores CHIPS funds

ELIZABETHTOWN - Area highway departments awoke to good news Feb. 17 as Gov. David Paterson announced the release of $1.1 billion in transportation funds to New York State. The funding was made possible by President Barack Obama's American Recovery Investment Act.

The decision restores money to local highway funds that were originally chosen to be cut from the 2009-10 executive budget. According to a news release issued by Paterson's office, budget director Laura Anglin will work with legislators to reestablish Consolidate Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS) funding at 2008-09 levels.

CHIPS provides funding for towns and villages that otherwise are not eligible to receive federal transportation aid. The $1.1 billion will be reallocated to the Highway and Bridge program that manages CHIPS funding, allowing municipalities to make scheduled infrastructure improvements.

According to Essex County Highway Superintendent Fred Buck, his department will receive approximately $1.8 million for county highway projects that were included in the budget for 2008-09. Buck said that if Obama's plan had not passed, the county would be dealing with a 32 to 33 percent shortfall in the 08-09 highway department budget. Some towns in Essex County faced as much as a 42 percent funding drop.

"This will get us close to where we need to be," said Buck. "It will allow us to at least keep up with what has to be repaired. Certainly, we always like to see more."

According to Paterson, the Recovery and Reinvestment Act allows the state to promote critical infrastructure projects across the state. He also stressed the importance of quick and decisive action.

"Because the infrastructure funds come with a 'use-it or lose-it' caveat, it is imperative we allocate these funds as quickly and efficiently as possible," Paterson said.

Paterson also said he understands the challenges local governments face regarding infrastructure needs.

"Many important local projects are not eligible for these funds," he said. "I have asked my budget director to find a solution in the restoration of CHIPS funding.

To prepare for the receipt of federal infrastructure funds, Paterson created the New York State Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Cabinet, charged with managing infrastructure development projects. New York is expected to receive at least $24.6 billion through Obama's stimulus package, $4 billion of which will go to infrastructure and energy projects.

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