Senate Calls for $100M to Fix Region 8 Roads

NYS Senate, Assembly Hike Funding Levels In FY2025 Budget for Hudson Valley Roads

By JOHN JORDAN – March 2024

TARRYTOWN—The advocacy efforts of the Hudson Valley region’s construction industry, led by the Construction Industry Council of Westchester & Hudson Valley, Inc., and organized union labor, have prompted state lawmakers in both chambers to advance significant funding increases in the New York State Department of Transportation’s 2024-2025 budget aimed at fixing deteriorating roads and bridges in the Lower Hudson Valley.

The Hudson Valley has the most state and local lane miles of any NYSDOT region, but its roads are rated the worst in the state. A powerful coalition of contractors, organized labor and elected officials gathered in Elmsford recently, calling on the governor and state lawmakers to significantly increase allocations for Hudson Valley roads and bridges.

The New York State Senate released its “one-house” budget funding proposal on Mon., March 11, that included $400 million in additional funding for the Mid-Hudson Valley transportation construction industry, which CIC and area construction trade unions swiftly applauded. Part of that advocacy effort included a rally by a coalition of construction contractors, union leaders and elected officials on Feb. 21 calling for more money in the state budget to address the poor condition of the area’s state roadways, many damaged by cavernous-like potholes.

The State Assembly followed suit on Thurs., March 14, with the release of its budget plan. The annual scrum among the Senate, Assembly and the governor’s office to pass a state budget by April 1 is now officially underway.

The construction industry has employed a grass-roots online campaign targeting lawmakers who are being reminded that the seven-county area covered by Region 8 of the New York State Department of Transportation has had the worst road and bridge conditions in New York State for more than a decade. It also noted that Region 8 has the most lane miles and the most bridges of any region, yet on average Region 8 ranks third in terms of funding. Region 8 includes 13 cities, 75 villages and 107 towns in Westchester, Ulster, Rockland, Putnam, Orange, Dutchess and Columbia counties.

The coalition is pressing the need for the New York State budget for transportation be increased by $400 million for core roads and bridges, and the aid to local highway departments raised by another $250 million to offset the effects of inflation.

The New York State Senate “one-house” proposal raised the governor’s recommendation of $9.4 billion of capital spending by another $1.2 billion to $10.6 billion. Included in the funding increase is “$400 million in additional support for core highway funding, for a total of $3 billion. $100 million of the additional support will go to Region 8 to compensate for past underfunding,” the State Senate one-house proposal stated. In addition, the State Senate calls for another $300 million increase to local road programs, including: $160 million in additional support for the Consolidated Local Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS), for a total of $698.1 million; $90 million in additional support for State Touring Routes (STR) program, for a total of $190 million and $50 million in additional support for Extreme Winter Recovery (EWR) program, for a total of $150 million.

Trade association leaders thanked New York State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Transportation Chair Senator Tim Kennedy and the Senate Majority Conference for including the proposed increase of $400 million to the New York State DOT core program—with some $100 million of this increase earmarked specifically in NYSDOT Region 8 to compensate for what CIC officials termed has been the “chronic underfunding” of Region 8’s roads and bridges, along with a $300-million increase to the local road program.

“By moving this budget proposal forward, Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins and the Majority Conference recognize the critical need to increase investment in New York State’s roads and bridges to recover from the impact of increased costs caused by inflation,” said CIC Executive Director John Cooney, Jr. “Further, the Senate proposal is a vital investment that spurs increased employment and boosts the economy of our great state.”

The CIC expressed its gratitude to Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins for recognizing the need and proposing a $100-million increase to NYS DOT Region 8’s budget.

Mr. Cooney added, “As citizens residing in and businesses operating in the Hudson Valley, we are entitled to the much-needed road and bridge conditions improvement that this vital boost of $100 million in our transportation system will deliver.”

Also, part of the New York State Senate’s funding proposal for NYSDOT included provisions calling for $20 million in funding for engineering costs of NYS Route 9A and $28 million to support studies for the following: $15 million for connecting the Cross Island Parkway to the Belt Parkway; $10 million for higher-speed rail and $3 million for a study on the creation of a Mid-Hudson Valley Transportation Authority.

The New York State Assembly in its ‘one-house” budget proposal also supports a $400-million increase in the NYSDOT core program and a $250-million increase in local capital aid, including: $598.1 million for the Consolidated Highway Improvement Program (CHIPs), a restoration of $60 million; $210 million for the Pave NY program, an increase of $60 million over the Executive proposal; $150 million for Extreme Winter Recovery, an increase of $50 million over the Executive proposal; and $180 million for the State Touring Route program, an increase of $80 million over the Executive proposal, including a restoration of $40 million.

It should be noted that the State Assembly in its one-house proposal does not specifically earmark $100 million in funding for Region 8.

Participating at the February “Rally for Roads” were officials and rank-and-file members of  Teamsters Local 456, Laborers Local 60, Laborers Local 235, Operating Engineers Local 137, Operating Engineers Local 825, Laborers Local 754, Laborers Local 17, and Carpenters Local 279. Also attending the rally were State Senators Shelley Mayer, Peter Harckham, Rob Rolison, Bill Weber and James Skoufis and Assembly Members MaryJane Shimsky, Matt Slater, Kenneth Zebrowski and Jonathan Jacobson. A representative of New York State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins also attended the event.

A recently released report by TRIP, a Washington, DC-based national transportation research non-profit, found that 44% of major locally and state-maintained roads in the New York-Newark-Jersey City urban area are in poor condition and another 24% are in mediocre condition, costing the average motorist an additional $880 each year in extra vehicle operating costs, including accelerated vehicle depreciation, additional repair costs, and increased fuel consumption and tire wear. Statewide, 25% of New York’s major roads are in poor condition and 18% are in mediocre condition.

In the New York-Newark-Jersey City urban area, 6% of bridges are rated poor/structurally deficient, with significant deterioration to the bridge deck, supports or other major components. In that region, 68% of the area’s bridges were rated fair and only 26% of the metro area’s total number of bridges (6,660) were rated good. Statewide, 9% of New York’s bridges are rated poor/structurally deficient. In the Poughkeepsie-Newburgh-Middletown area, 14% of the region’s bridges were rated poor or structurally deficient, with 61% rated fair and only 24% of the total 806 bridges were rated good.

Mr. Cooney said the TRIP report calculated that crumbing roads and potholes cost New York State drivers $8.7 billion—an average of $715 per driver—last year in repairs, fuel and wear and tear. In addition to the wear and tear on cars, the crumbling roads also pose a serious safety risk for drivers who swerve to avoid hitting potholes.

To illustrate how roads in Region 8 have deteriorated over the years, data released by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association showed in 2002 that 78% of Region 8 roads were in good to excellent condition. By 2021, that number dropped to 44%. Roads in fair to poor condition rose from 22% in 2002 to 56% in 2021.

Assemblywoman Shimsky said simply, “Our roads are terrible,” noting that New York State was recently ranked 46th in road conditions according to the Reason Foundation. She said the funding request is part of a long-term effort to have the state and Region 8 catch up and improve road conditions. “This is a safety issue even for people who do not drive,” she said. “Good roads and bridges are for everyone.”

State Senator Harckham echoed Assemblywoman Shimsky’s comments about how Region 8’s transportation needs have been underfunded by the state. “The disinvestment in New York’s infrastructure has got to stop.” He added that both the $400 million in increased funding to be earmarked for state roads and the additional $250 million for local governments to fund ongoing maintenance and upgrades to municipal roads are sorely needed.

State Sen. Mayer said, “For years, I have been pressing for increased state funding for roads and bridges in our community. Sadly, this year is no different. The governor’s proposed budget simply fails to meet the needs of our district and puts us even further behind in keeping roads and bridges in a state of good repair. Regularly, I hear complaints from residents about roads in need of paving and potholes that are craters, complaints that reflect a growing sense that our region is being underserved compared to the need. As the Hudson Valley faces increasingly severe storms, our roads require even more attention.”

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