NY Officials: Local Roads, Bridges Even Worse Than State Routes

Wed April 05, 2006 - Northeast Edition
Mark Johnson

ALBANY, NY (AP) Town and county roads and bridges around New York are in even worse shape than those controlled by the state and stand to deteriorate rapidly amid rising traffic and harsh winters, local highway officials said March 14.

Approximately 38 percent of the state’s county and town-owned bridges are listed as structurally deficient, in need of work but not in danger of imminent collapse. That compares to a national deficiency rate of 28 percent for local bridges. Approximately 27 percent of the 8,300 state-owned bridges are rated as deficient.

At the same time, traffic in New York has increased 19 percent from 1995 to 2004, said Terrence Rice, director of the Monroe County Department of Transportation.

Republican state Sen. Thomas Libous, chairman of the Senate’s Transportation Committee, said he would grade New York’s local roads with a “C.”

Road crews around New York are likely to face even more problems this spring because road surfaces have not hardened as they do most winters due to higher-than-normal temperatures. That makes roads more susceptible to damage, Libous said.

New York’s local road system stretches for more than 97,000 mi. and includes more than 9,000 bridges, more than half of the bridges statewide. The 700 mi. of new roads added in New York last year were all locally owned.

While Pataki and legislative leaders in July agreed on a $35.9-billion multiyear plan to bolster the state’s aging transportation system, local projects were largely left out.

Pataki has proposed spending $289.5 million next fiscal year on the Consolidated Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS) for local roads, an increase of $6 million from the 2005-2006 fiscal year, and $39.7 million for contributions to federal road projects.

Town and county officials want the Legislature to add $100 million to the CHIPS program over the next four years to make up for skyrocketing fuel and construction costs and provide another $10 million for the federally-funded projects.

While Libous told a group of approximately 400 local road officials in Albany March 14 he would work to boost local road funding, he termed the amount they are asking for as “ambitious.”

Libous said he would seek another $1 million in CHIPS money that could be used to produce $10 million through bonding.