ALBANY, NY (AP) Gov. George Pataki on Sept. 18 began his effort to persuade voters to allow the state to borrow $2.9 billion for transportation projects over the next five years that would create more than 120,000 jobs.
Five years ago there was only tepid campaigning from Albany and voters rejected a $3.8-billion transportation bond act.
Democrat Richard Brodsky, chairman of the Assembly authorities committee, said he and Republican State Sen. Thomas Libous are heading a statewide effort to drum up support for the measure.
The bond act is part of $35.9 billion in transportation spending Pataki and legislative leaders agreed to in July.
The money is to be split between the Metropolitan Transportation Authority that runs New York City’s mass transit and on bridge and road work outside New York City.
Planned projects include the conversion of state Route 17 into Interstate 86 across the Southern Tier, construction of the U.S. Route 219 freeway in Erie and Cattaraugus counties, construction of a four-lane connector roadway that will link Interstate 81 to Fort Drum and improvements to Interstate 287 in Westchester County.
Voters will decide whether to approve the borrowing in November.
An advisory panel to the state Department of Transportation last November issued a report warning of the consequences if more isn’t done to shore up the state’s highways, railroads, airports and mass-transit systems.
“The transportation infrastructure will deteriorate, the economy will falter, jobs will be lost and the quality of life in New York State will suffer dramatically” if more resources aren’t committed to New York’s roads, the report said.
Assemblyman William Parment, a Jamestown Democrat, is one of several lawmakers to oppose the plan, said it would add to the heavy debt load the state is already carrying. He said that some of the projects should be delayed until the state can pay for them without borrowing.
State-supported debt has ballooned from $14.4 billion in 1990 to $48 billion this year, said Dan Weiller, a spokesman of Comptroller Alan Hevesi. It will eventually cost $71 billion to pay off that debt, when interest and principal are accounted for, Hevesi said earlier this year.