Assemblyman Kevin Byrne (R,C,Ref-Mahopac) joined colleagues from the Assembly and Senate for the annual “Local Roads Matter” rally on March 4 highlighting the need for greater investment in our state and local transportation infrastructure. The group called for funding increases to the Consolidated Local Street and Highway Program (CHIPS) and the restoration of the Extreme Winter Recovery (EWR) program. Legislators were joined by hundreds of local highway workers, advocacy groups and other governmental officials. The rally was organized by Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (R,C,I-Corning) and Sen.Tom O’Mara (R,C,I-Big Flats).
“Everyday, hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers use our local roads and bridges,” said Byrne. “One of our most basic, fundamental responsibilities as public officials is to ensure that these structures are safe and kept in the best condition possible to protect those in our community. Over 87 percent of all roads used in our state are local roads. That means nearly nine-tenths of all center lane miles of road in our state are local roads and maintained by local governments. This funding is crucial to supporting our state’s transportation system. Whether you’re traveling in an ambulance to the hospital, in a bus to school, commuting to the train, taking Uber/Lyft to the library or shopping to pick up groceries, odds are you will be traveling on a local road. Without proper upkeep the cost to repair these roads will only grow—further adding to the local property tax burden. Our transportation infrastructure needs to be a top priority in the upcoming budget.”
In Gov. Cuomo’s recently proposed Executive Budget, he proposed to cut the EWR program, which distributed state aid totaling $65 million to local governments across New York to fix damage caused by winter storms to local infrastructures. For the eighth consecutive year, Gov. Cuomo has neglected to propose any increase to CHIPS funding. In response, Byrne and his colleagues are calling for a full restoration of the EWR program along with an additional $150 million to CHIPS.
“Getting the Extreme Winter Recovery program restored is extremely important, especially to the Hudson Valley area and other upstate communities,” said Byrne. “This region is more frequently affected by winter storms and frigid temperatures, meaning there is more damage to our roads and bridges that needs to be fixed. I will continue to fight for this funding to be restored and expanded in the upcoming budget. Local roads matter!”
“My thanks goes out to Assemblyman Byrne for continuing to represent the interests of Carmel citizens within Albany,” said Michael Simone, Carmel highway superintendent.
According to a September 2019 report by TRIP, a national transportation research nonprofit, 10 percent of bridges in New York are considered to be in poor or structurally deficient condition, making New York the 12th highest rated in the nation. The report also stated that every day, nearly 12 million vehicles cross one of these bridges.
“I really appreciate Assemblyman Byrne’s support for our community,” said Russ Goff, Patterson highway superintendent. “He always takes the time to meet with us, and he clearly realizes the importance of helping fund our local roads. I am also impressed by the amount of highway superintendents that attended. This is my 5th year attending, and it was the best one yet.”
On March 2, Byrne, Palmesano, O’Mara and other legislators wrote to Cuomo stating “We believe that New York State’s investment in local transportation infrastructure must be a foundation of the nation’s most aggressive infrastructure program in order for this program to achieve its envisioned goals…We once again stress that New York state’s direct investment in local roads and bridges through the Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS) remains fundamental to the mission highlighted above. It deserves priority consideration in the final allocation of the record level of state investment the Executive proposes for the 2020-21 fiscal year. CHIPS is the key difference for local communities, economies, governments, motorists and taxpayers throughout the Empire State, including New York City and surrounding metro areas, and we should no longer ignore this fact. This session, perhaps more than ever before, we believe the opportunity exits to strengthen past successes and, most importantly, revitalize our investment to address the tremendous, still unmet needs and challenges facing the effective maintenance and improvement of local roads, bridges and culverts in every region of New York state.”
“I want to thank Assemblyman Kevin Byrne for taking time to hear my concerns in Albany at the CHIPS rally yesterday,” said Michael Burdick, Southeast highway superintendent. “As a newly elected highway superintendent for the Town of Southeast, it is nice to know that we have someone looking out for small towns in Putnam County. Local road programs such as CHIPS, Pave NY and Extreme Winter Recovery are what help us to be successful at maintaining our roads. Thank you again.”