STATEMENT by Todd Gadd, President of the New York State County Highway Superintendents Association, on the 2020 Local Roads Matter! Advocacy Day in Albany, NY.

 

March 5, 2020

I want to thank all those who attended our Local Roads Matter! Advocacy Day this year, particularly the many Senators and Assembly members who have joined us and who are committed to our common objective which is to assure the necessary state investment for maintaining our statewide system of roads and bridges.

Although we’ve been doing this rally each year for some 17 years, this year feels different. There is more of a sense of urgency than in the past.

We’re used to huge participation numbers, lately around an impressive 600 attendees for Advocacy Day. But this year feels more critical. This year the state will adopt a budget setting funding levels to begin a new multi-year transportation capital program. We know it’s an important year.

That’s why our Advocacy Day attendance swelled to a record! There were over 770 strong, moving through the halls of the Capitol to meet with their elected officials. And with everyone wearing orange shirts, unity in our mission was on grand display at the Capitol.

It’s always important that we—highway superintendents, public works commissioners, consultants, engineers, highway department crews, equipment makers and suppliers, locally elected officials and many others—come to Albany each year to speak with a unified voice to our state representatives. 

And it’s always valuable to remind our legislators and the Governor that our combined membership is responsible for ensuring the safe operation of 87 percent of the state’s public roads, half of its bridges and plowing not only our huge local system but over a quarter of the State’s roads as well.

Every weather event, snowstorm, days of freezing temperatures or severe flooding mobilizes the hardworking men and women of our local crews to ensure New York’s drivers get to and from work, their homes, schools, hospitals and other destinations safely. This is always a challenge.

What should not be a challenge, is adequately funding our transportation system, but it is. Every year.

The Executive Budget, while continuing important local transportation funding programs, provides NO INCREASES for these programs in the planned abbreviated two-year transportation capital plan. This despite a proposed overall transportation program increase of $1.5 billion.

This means that CHIPS, the financial life blood of our highway departments, may once again be held at the same level it’s been since 2013! That’s just not right.

Just as troubling, the Executive Budget does not propose a re-funding of Extreme Winter Recovery, a program added each of the last 3 years by the legislature, at $65 million.

Together, with decreases in the level of locally administered federal aid funding for bridge projects, we are off to a tough start in 2020.

Nearly half of our local roads are in fair or poor condition and, excluding New York City, localities must now spend an additional $1.7 billion annually just to keep pace with maintenance.

Most of our local governments are simply not able to make up this gap in funding need, as our roads, bridges and culverts become older, and their conditions continue to deteriorate. The state needs to step up!

That’s why there were 770-plus orange-shirted men and women at the Capitol, demonstrating to legislators and the Governor how important this issue is to us and our mutual constituents, the travelling public.

We are urging our legislative representatives to make local roads and bridges a priority in this year’s budget, beginning by restoring EWR and increasing CHIPS funding.

We all agree that a $150 million increase in the CHIPS base aid and the restoration of $65 million in EWR is the way to help all municipalities improve the conditions of the statewide system of roads, bridges and culverts, promote job creation and economic development in our communities, and improve highway safety and functionality on behalf of the motoring public.

Thank you to all who have joined in this vital advocacy effort! We are hopeful that our state representatives have gotten the message and will prevail in delivering increased state investment in our local transportation system.