View from the Capital
State Budget Provides Hundreds of Millions of Additional Dollars for Local Roads, Bridges and Culverts
This is a much different headline than last year’s “View from the Capital” article (State Budget Underfunds Local Roads and Bridges) and is in large part a result of a concerted and year-long lobbying effort by NYSCHSA and many of our industry partners and organizations calling for funding “parity” between the downstate transit systems’ and Department of Transportation’s capital budgets.
The final state budget includes multi-year state funding level commitments for DOT that are more in line with those established for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) in NYC than in previous years. And while CHIPS is held to the $438 million level over the next several years, the more robust $21.1 billion five-year DOT Capital Plan features two new programs initiated by Governor Andrew Cuomo specifically aimed at improving local road, bridge and culvert conditions throughout the state.
Under PAVE NY, $100 million will be allocated to all municipalities throughout the state each year for four years to support the rehabilitation and reconstruction of local roads. There is an equal amount of program funding for the state’s system paving needs as well. PAVE NY funds will go toward improving the conditions, functionality and safety of local roadways, creating jobs and contributing to economic development in our communities. Roadway resurfacing, widening and realignment, construction of turning lanes at intersections, and new drainage for flood mitigation are among the projects eligible for PAVE NY funding.
The state has begun accepting applications from municipalities for significant bridge and culvert rehabilitation projects under the new funding program designed to tackle the growing problem of structurally deficient and functionally obsolete state- and locally-owned bridges and culverts. Under BRIDGE NY, municipalities will be able to apply to DOT for $200 million for the first two years of the program for local governments to address their priority bridge and culvert projects. The funding is in addition to other programs made available in the state budget for local transportation infrastructure.
BRIDGE NY is a vast improvement over the previous state and local bridge program that saw the majority of the funding intended for local bridges being gobbled up by a few large NYC bridge projects. The new BRIDGE NY funding allocation method (based on fixed percentages for what are four MOU regions) should help to assure a fairer distribution of projects throughout the state. In addition, BRIDGE NY eligible projects include culverts, a feature for which NYSCHSA had been advocating for some time. Culvert projects are to be funded with state dollars which should provide for a more cost-effective program as this culvert work will not need to go through the costly and time-consuming federal funds process.
While many of these BRIDGE NY features are ones we advocated for and are welcomed, there are still some concerns with how the state will administer the program and how the evaluation and selection process will work. Despite having NYSCHSA and NYSAOTSOH representation on the DOT “review teams,” there is more that DOT should do to enhance local participation and maximize cost efficiencies so that we can do the most number of priority projects under these levels of funding. NYSCHSA will continue to work with DOT to help make this program a success and one that will continue beyond this current 5-year capital plan.
The new five-year $305 billion federal transportation program, Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST Act), provides modest increases in federal highway and transit spending, allows states greater long-term funding certainty and is intended to streamline the federal project approval process. FAST Act increases highway funding by approximately15 percent over the duration of the program.
However, the funding levels fall far short of what is needed to improve conditions and meet the nation’s mobility needs. Perhaps most troubling is that it fails to establish a sustainable, long-term source of revenue for the federal Highway Trust Fund. The 18.4 cents-per-gallon federal motor fuel tax and the 24.4 cents-per-gallon federal diesel fuel tax are the primary sources of funding for the federal Highway Trust Fund but have not been increased since 1993.
Trust Fund revenues have not been adequate to support federal transportation spending since 2008. As a result, Congress has approved transfers totaling $143 billion in borrowed or General Fund revenue into the Highway Trust Fund. When FAST Act expires at the end of FY 2020, the Congressional Budget Office projects the average annual shortfall to the federal Highway Trust Fund will grow to $16 billion.
While the increases in federal transportation aid in FAST Act, the new multi-year $21.1 billion DOT capital plan that includes the establishment of PAVE NY and BRIDGE NY programs is all good news for local highway departments, NYSCHSA will be seeking opportunities to build on these program enhancements in the next state budget. Through our representation on the BRIDGE NY review teams and our ongoing dialogue with DOT Commissioner Matthew Driscoll, the Governor’s Transportation Secretary Ron Thaniel and legislative leaders, we hope to make further progress in directing the necessary state resources to the local transportation systems on behalf of the traveling public.
New York State Legislative Resources
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo
Executive Chamber, State Capitol
Albany, NY 12224
Phone: (518) 474-8390
444 N. Capitol St., NW, Ste. 301
Washington, DC 20001
Phone: (202) 434-7100
Fax: (202) 434-7110
Matthew Driscoll, Commissioner
50 Wolf Road
Albany, NY 12232
Bruce W. Geiger
President, Bruce W. Geiger & Associates, Inc.
111 Washington Ave, Suite 600 A,
Albany NY 12210,