Times Union: A better way to repair N.Y.'s infrastructure

Charles J. Fuschillo Jr.

January 24, 2012


Published 10:46 p.m., Monday, January 23, 2012


What's the plan to fix New York's infrastructure?

That's the $175 billion question. Because that's how much the state needs to spend to maintain its transportation infrastructure over the next 20 years.

We need to start addressing this problem now, beginning with a statewide transportation capital plan to repair our infrastructure.

Our transportation infrastructure is facing a crisis. Approximately one in three state and local highway bridges is either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, according to the state Department of Transportation.

That translates into 6,200 bridges from Long Island to Buffalo that either need major repair to stay in service or have outlived their useful lifespan altogether. Approximately 130 bridges statewide were closed by the DOT between 2006 and 2011, according to a Gannett News Service report.

We can't keep waiting until that point to start taking action. Closing the Lake Champlain Bridge for safety reasons in 2009 severed a vital economic artery between New York and Vermont and created a major burden and inconvenience for residents. Imagine the economic catastrophe that would be caused by allowing the Tappan Zee Bridge or one of the New York City bridges to get to that point.

It's not just mega-projects like replacing the Tappan Zee Bridge that need to be addressed. Earlier this month, the DOT closed the Route 219 bridge between Erie and Cattaragus Counties because it had deteriorated to the point where it became unsafe. Every region of the state, from the Capital Region to the North Country to New York City and its suburbs, has crumbling roads, highways, and bridges that desperately need to be repaired or replaced.

New York needs a fully funded capital plan to address this problem and upgrade transportation infrastructure in all regions of the state.

Funding this plan will be a major challenge, especially in the face of a $3 billion budget deficit, declining revenues and rising project costs. That's why we need to look at innovative delivery methods such as public-private partnerships.

Public-private partnerships enable governments and the private sector to partner in the design, construction, financing and delivery of transportation projects. Given the private sector's vested financial interest in completing projects on time and under budget, such partnerships often perform more efficiently than their counterparts. By taking advantage of private sector capital and creativity, we could generate economic development, reduce risk and financial burden to the state, and stretch current funding further to get more projects off the ground.

Moving infrastructure projects forward would also help promote economic development and create jobs all across the state. The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that 25,000 jobs are created for every $1 billion spent on transportation infrastructure projects. For a state with more than 750,000 unemployed residents, that's an opportunity we can't afford to pass up.

We know the problem we're facing, and we've known it for years. Now we need to start solving it. If we don't act now, our state's infrastructure and future will crumble to the ground together.

Charles J. Fuschillo of Nassau County is chairman of the state Senate's Transportation Committee.


Link to op-ed on Times Union website: http://www.timesunion.com/opinion/article/A-better-way-to-repair-N-Y-s-infrastructure-2681633.php#ixzz1kPdvVxPY