Governor’s Budget Maintains Road, Bridge Funding Levels

It’s expected the South Main Street bridge in the city of Jamestown will undergo rehabilitation this year. Project costs went up from $2.3 million to $3.7 million. Eighty percent of the cost will be paid through federal funds while the rest is provided by the state and the county. P-J photo by Jimmy McCarthy

State support of local road and bridge repairs will likely go on with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed commitments.

Within this year’s budget proposal, the governor continues his support for the Consolidated Highway Improvement Program, which supports local road repairs, and the Marchiselli program, which provides money for infrastructure capital projects.

Funding between the two programs, however, is maintained at last year’s level of $477 million.

The budget will also continue $100 million in highway aid through PAVE NY and $100 million for bridge projects through the BRIDGE NY Program.

For 2016-17, $8.5 million in CHIPS funds were dispersed to municipalities throughout Chautauqua County. Of that, $3.7 million was given to the county Public Facilities Department for repairs. The city of Jamestown received a little over $887,700 while the city of Dunkirk obtained around $346,200.

George Spanos, county public facilities director, said he was glad to see the level of funding that was approved by the governor and state legislators last year. However, Spanos said funding for municipalities across the county and state need to catch up after seeing financial cuts years ago.

Spanos serves as president of the New York State County Highway Superintendents Association. He said they’ll be seeking an additional $150 million in CHIPS statewide and $50 million in BRIDGE NY funding.

“A highway is no different than a house,” he said. “If you don’t spend whatever it takes to fix your roof, you’re going to have leaks and have a lot higher cost. If you do not take care of the cracks when they develop, if you do not fix it when it starts deteriorating at the surface, the water penetrates at the lower levels and the damage of the roads are lot more costly than what would have been originally.”

This year, roads and highways are facing winter’s wrath as motorists throughout the county do their best to maneuver past rough road patches and potholes. Spanos said the multiple cycles of freezing and thawing this year are playing a role in conditions. From city streets and local roads to Interstate 86, no highway is coming out unscathed this winter.

“It’s actually devastating to our infrastructure,” Spanos said. “With all these freezing and thawing cycles taking place, plus thawing followed with rain, it accelerates the failures. We wish that it would just freeze and stay frozen.”

Statewide, one-third of highways are deemed to be in bad condition while roughly 30 percent of bridges are characterized as structurally deficient. Spanos said those statistics are pretty close to road and bridge conditions in Chautauqua County.

State Sen. Cathy Young, R-Olean, said she’s aware of the governor’s proposed transportation funding. Young, who chairs the Senate’s Finance Committee, said a hearing is expected to be held later this week.

“We have a pothole problem and roads need serious work,” she said. “The Senate majority fought for CHIPS funds. We’ve expanded it because we know how critical funding is for local governments, especially rural areas.”


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