Highway heads push for more funding
By Patsy Nicosia
More than 650 highway officials from across New York State gathered in Albany last Wednesday to push for more funding for roads, bridges, and culverts.
According to a list of talking points from the Local Roads Are Essential Advocacy Day 2023, record high inflation rates on highway construction materials have severely increased costs and under the proposed 2023-24 state budget “local governments are seeing almost a 25 percent reduction in real dollars from local highway maintenance programs.
“It is critical that an additional $270 million be added...for CHIPS and EWR [Extreme Winter Recovery] just to keep funding at the same level it was…”
Middleburgh Town Highway Superintendent Steve Kowalski touched on the talking points Thursday.
The state is taking back some of the CHIPS funding awarded in 2022, he said, and is talking about no longer funding chip sealing, a much less expensive way to maintaining rural roads than paving with asphalt.
“They don’t give us anywhere near enough money to take care of our roads as it is,” Mr. Kowalski said.
“We could be looking at severe limits on what we have to spend on our roads.”
Both State Senator Peter Oberacker and Assemblyman Chris Tague issued statements calling for increased funding for local highway improvements and a great investment in transportation infrastructure.
“Construction costs continue to increase and state funding has failed to keep pace,” Senator Oberacker said.
“Funding is stagnant. Even a modest increase in CHIPS funding would help…”
Assemblyman Tague said without investment in critical roads and infrastructure, economic grants like NY Forward are “only winning half the battle.
“Our rural communities in particular need Albany to continue to provide the essential money needed to repair and modernize the rusted out, failing infrastructure not only for public safety but also to support the economic investments we are making.”
Specifically, the Local Roads are Essential advocates are calling for:
• Increasing the base funding level for CHIPS by $200 million to a total of $738 million.
• Increasing Extreme Winter Recovery funding by $70 million to $170 million.
• Increasing the CHIPS bidding threshold from $350,000 to $750,000.
• Restoring the Dedicated Highway and Bridge Trust Fund to its originally intended purpose as a dedicated, pay-as-you-go funding source for critical transportation repairs and capital projects.