By Mike Elmendorf and Gerry Geist, Commentary
Last month, in his State of the State speech and budget proposal, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he was proposing a $22 billion, five-year investment in road and bridge funding, and committed to achieving parity between New York City’s mass transit and the rest of the state’s transportation needs.
In reality, his five-year capital program for the Department of Transportation is $20.1 billion. It may be the largest capital program ever proposed for the DOT, but it comes nowhere near meeting the needs of our roads and bridges, projected at some $28 billion over the next five years.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority‘s five-year capital plan is proposed at $26.1 billion. That $6 billion difference means that parity, by its very definition, is not being achieved. Even if the governor meant “roughly equal,” the 30 percent difference between the two programs isn’t even in the ballpark. This budget would produce the biggest funding disparity between the two programs in New York history.
The governor’s proposal does offer key advancements and investments in infrastructure spending, and that is a good thing, as his robust commitment to the MTA. But this proposal still falls far short.
Mike Elmendorf is president & CEO of Associated General Contractors of New York State and Rebuild NY Now. Gerry Geist is executive director of the New York State Association of Towns.
The commitment to parity began in the early 1990s, when statewide gas tax revenues were first committed to help meet the growing capital needs of the MTA. In return for this statewide taxpayer support of the MTA, it was agreed that parity would exist between the DOT and MTA. And, until parity was broken in 2009-10, that’s precisely what existed — virtually equal capital plans between the two systems.
It is important to note that parity is not about “upstate” and “downstate. It is about equal investment between the MTA system and our statewide system of roads and bridges. Every region of New York relies upon roads and bridges and suffers from deteriorating conditions.
What’s more, some 40 percent of MTA users access MTA services by getting to them in a car, and the costs to drive in the New York metropolitan area due to deteriorating roads and bridges are the highest in the state. The notion that parity is a divide or choice between one region over another is false. Parity is about equitable investment in statewide needs.
The governor’s commitment to the historic MTA funding deal in no way alleviates the dire need for restoration of true parity — based on the premise of equality and not some new, revisionist math — to repair our aging and crumbling roads and bridges.
By the end of 2014, half of state paved roads were in conditions rated fair or worse. Each day, 17.3 million New Yorkers drive over a bridge that is in a state of disrepair — a potential disaster waiting to happen.
In last year’s “State of Opportunity Agenda,” Cuomo himself noted that 6,000 bridges and 60 percent of our roads are in need of repair. And, while he gets due credit for advancing the reconstruction of the Tappan Zee Bridge, across New York there are nearly 600 bridges in as bad or worse condition.