Lawmakers look to maintain transportation funding

Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants to continue funding infrastructure projects across the state despite a bleak fiscal outlook.

According to Cuomo, lawmakers must invest in New York's transportation infrastructure, even as he calls for a 10 percent budget reduction at the state Department of Transportation.

Late last year, the state comptroller's office issued a report showing that some 40 percent of New York's transportation infrastructure is considered substandard or obsolete, even as the state spent upwards of $63 billion on bridges and roads over the last 10 years.

At February's meeting of the state Adirondack Park Agency, two representatives from the DOT Region 2 office said bridges and culverts inside the Blue Line are in "deplorable" condition.

"I think we know how important it is to keep our bridges in good repair, having gone through the Crown Point Bridge closure and with the new bridge now being built," said state Senator Betty Little, who attended Monday's transportation hearing.

Little says that overall spending at the DOT will be cut by some 10 percent, but funding for bridge and road repair will remain at current levels.

"So you might not see an increase, but they are keeping that money at the same levels," she said.

Little adds that funding for the Consolidate Local Street and Highway Program - CHIPS - will also be left untouched in the upcoming budget.

She says that will be welcome news for local highway departments.

"I don't think you can back away from infrastructure improvements, because they are only going to cost more when you reach a crises stage," Little said.

"We know how much more this is costing for the new Crown Point Bridge because we're spending money on additional transportation needs like the temporary ferry between Vermont and New York," she added. "There are extra costs because we're working under a crises contract."

Meanwhile, the DOT's executive deputy commissioner, Stanley Gee, met with legislators earlier this week, stating that Gov. Cuomo has not yet indicated whether he plans to layoff any workers with the transportation department.

Joan McDonald is Cuomo's nominee to take over the transportation agency.

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