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February 3, 2012 - 2:35pm

County facing loss of federal dollars to help repair roads and bridges

posted by Howard B. Owens in highways, infrastructure, bridges.

Pending federal legislation could have a dramatic impact on Genesee County's ability to repair and maintain its road and bridges, according to Highway Superintendent Tim Hens.

Both the House and Senate version strip most of the aid that has traditionally gone to local governments to help with infrastructure. 

The county is facing more than $15 million a year in expenses over the next five years to repair roads and bridges.

The bill would also realign regional highway planning committees and allow any municipality of more than 10,000 people to set up their own committees.

"There could potentially be hundreds of these planning organizations fighting for the same pot of money," Hens said. "Neither the House version nor the Senate version is very local-friendly."

Hens has drafted a letter to senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand along with Rep. Kathy Hochul asking them to consider the local impact of the legislation.

Hens wrote:

We are certainly in favor of consolidating programs and accelerating delivery measures that reduce the time and cost to bring projects to construction, thereby maximizing the available dollars to the actual construction. However, we are very concerned that funding available to the non-NHS system will fall short of what is critically needed. Although we concur that the NHS is vital to the nation’s economy, it is important that the entire transportation system be considered as one seamless system that needs to preserved and maintained in its entirety. Local governments saddled with mandates just do not have the financial ability to take up these obligations on their own.

Full text of his letter after the jump (click on the headline to read):

Dear Senator/Representative:

As you are already aware, the surface transportation bill known as SAFETEA-LU expired on September 30, 2009. Highway and transit programs have been operating under short term extensions ever since. The current extension expires on March 31, 2012.

NY State budgets have not been adequate to reverse the deterioration of local roads and bridges and the lack of action on federal highway program authorization and funding has created huge uncertainty. This uncertainty not only affects state highway programs; but the contractors, designers, subcontractors and material suppliers who work within these programs are also affected.

In the US Senate, the federal highway and transportation funding bill is MAP-21—Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century. Legislation known as the “American Energy & Infrastructure Jobs Act,” was introduced by the House on January 31, 2012. These bills seek to reform and streamline federal transportation programs, cut red tape in the project approval process, increase states’ flexibility in determining their most critical transportation needs, and encourage private sector participation in financing and rebuilding our infrastructure.

While immediate action is needed to pass a multi-year transportation reauthorization bill which will bring much needed certainty to the construction marketplace, the fear is that some proposed modifications to existing federal highway funding programs could result in fewer funds available for non-National Highway System (NHS) bridges and not provide any additional funds for non-NHS highways in New York.

We are certainly in favor of consolidating programs and accelerating delivery measures that reduce the time and cost to bring projects to construction, thereby maximizing the available dollars to the actual construction. However, we are very concerned that funding available to the non-NHS system will fall short of what is critically needed. Although we concur that the NHS is vital to the nation’s economy, it is important that the entire transportation system be considered as one seamless system that needs to preserved and maintained in its entirety.  Local governments saddled with mandates just do not have the financial ability to take up these obligations on their own.

In addition, how the local Metropolitan Planning Organization’s (MPO) boundaries are determined would change considerably in some cases; eliminating some Counties from their existing MPO. This would weaken the ability to ensure that transportation decisions benefit the overall community and threaten the economic stability, vitality and viability of the region as a whole.

The current Genesee Transportation Council boundaries are allowed per Title 23 Section 450.312(d) of the Code of Federal Regulations: “MPA boundaries may be established to coincide with the geography of regional economic development and growth forecasting areas.” The nine-county region has the same boundaries as both the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development District and Governor Cuomo’s regional economic development council. Strategic plans for both the district and the council have been completed within the last six months. We strongly urge that this provision be maintained in the next surface transportation legislation.

Increased federal funding is desperately needed to allow our highway superintendents the funding necessary to begin to address the critical needs of the state’s local transportation infrastructure. Genesee County and many other rural counties would be severely impacted with the loss of MPO representation and redirection of funds to the NHS. On behalf of Genesee County I am urging that you and your New York colleagues take steps to insure that the final multi-year federal transportation authorization bill does not short change the local highway and bridge system in this state.

Thank you for your continued support.

John Roach
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But they have money for a high speed rail that goes only 11 miles?

Dave Olsen
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Senator Ranzenhofer thinks the state has money for the STAMP project too. 18 mill would fix a few bridges.

John Woodworth JR
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Hmmm, if they do not repair the roads and bridges. How do they expect someone to pull their car out of an river or deep pothole to get to the high speed rail? Who cares about vehicle alignment, suspension or tire repairs? As long as we have a high speed rail that can get us from Buffalo to New York City and use donkeys to get us to our final destination from one of the four or five..... stops, we will be alright. :-)

Ben Marien
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Another federal decison that hurts local economy and could lead to possible employment losses.

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