Upstate Infrastructure Vital To Grow Economy

Without reliable roads, bridges and other critical infrastructure it is impossible to sustain a functioning economy. The transportation of workers, customers and goods is the heart of commerce and New York’s roads and bridges are the veins that make it possible. I am proud to have fought for increased funding in the Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS) in order to make necessary infrastructure improvements. I will continue to push for funding to upgrade New York’s aging transportation grid next legislative session.
Recently, a plan to borrow $10 billion to close a gap in the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s (MTA) five-year, $26 billion capital spending plan has raised some serious questions about the state’s proposed allocation of resources. Gov. Cuomo has pledged $8.3 billion in state funds to help close the MTA’s shortfall, but has not signaled any funding for upstate roads and bridges. Ignoring the needs of those outside New York City is a mistake.
When announcing the MTA agreement, the Governor indicated that MTA funds would no longer be redirected to non-mass-transit purposes. We need that same commitment for the states $6.2 billion generated by driver fees and taxes.  As New Yorkers, we pay some of the nation’s highest gas taxes and vehicle fees. But only about one-third of that revenue goes back into maintaining our roads and bridges.
Keep in mind, the funding allocated to MTA comes as the state is expected to spend at least $4 billion on the new Tappan Zee Bridge and another $4 billion to renovate New York City’s LaGuardia Airport. In contrast, seven upstate regions have been forced to compete for $1.5 billion in a grant program intended to spark economic development. The scales of infrastructure resources are dramatically tipped in downstate’s favor.
There are millions of upstate residents expecting safe and reliable ways to get to work, school, the hospital, the park and countless other places. By investing in our infrastructure, we ensure a seamless flow of customers to our local businesses, propelling commerce and in turn driving revenue and taxes. Not to mention, prudent spending on New York’s roadways has a compound positive economic effect, by creating construction jobs, which also yield taxes and revenue. It would be irresponsible if we, as a Legislature, did not make a proper investment.
Improving New York’s transportation system is no small feat. There are many facets to the funding and execution of a task of this size, and the taxpayer, who is ultimately on the hook for any state spending, has a right to know what they are buying. Inexplicably, the Governor has yet to provide a complete spending plan for the new Tappan Zee Bridge, and has continually neglected to answer even the most basic financial questions about the project. As a New York taxpayer, I urge you to constantly demand the highest standards of transparency. Anything less is a gross failure of the democratic system.  
What do you think?  I want to hear from you. Send me your feedback, suggestions and ideas regarding this or any other issue facing New York State. You can always contact my district office at (315) 781-2030, email me at, find me by searching for Assemblyman Brian Kolb on Facebook, and follow me on Twitter.

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