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Rebuild NY Now Wants Parity Funding For Infrastructure

A coalition of labor groups and lawmakers seeking to raise public awareness about the issues impacting New York’s infrastructure continued its campaign today in the Capital Region with a news conference in Wynantskill.

"Our message today is simple yet powerful. Parity. Parity. Parity."   That's New York State Senator Kathy Marchione, a Republican from the 43rd district, emphasizing Thursday’ buzzword. Rebuild NY Now is sounding the alarm, saying the state’s infrastructure is aging and falling apart and local communities hunger for their fair share of state support.

Mike Elmendorf is  President and CEO of Rebuild New York Now :  "You cannot be open for business if your roads and bridges are closed. And I don't think it could be any clearer than that. And you know the governor himself has pointed out that we have 6,000 bridges and 60 percent of our roads that are in need of repair. That is clearly not the blueprint for economic growth or development or opportunity in any way, shape or form. And that's why this is the year that we have to restore parity. And again, to be real clear, parity is equal. That's what the word mean in the dictionary, and that's what the word when you had parity, until you didn't."

Rebuild NY Now says the $26.1 billion proposed in the executive budget for the MTA and the $20.1 billion for DOT is not only not parity, it is the largest disparity in funding between the two systems ever.

Bernie Meyer is the Highway Superintendent in the Columbia County Town of Canaan. He says that in 1990 a dedicated highway and bridge fund was established, funded by a gas tax and registration fees. Meyer notes the fund was siphoned.   "It went for anything but capital projects. And that's what it was set up for. Capital projects. But snow and ice removal is not capital, that's maintenance, and unfortunately that's how it became watered down and diluted to the point where now that fund is not defunct but certainly underfunded and insolvent. That's why we're here today, because the funding that was established for these purposes isn't there."

There have been several recent instances of infrastructure failure in the Albany area. Most notably the water main that burst in Troy's Lansingburgh neighborhood and a sewer line collapse on Campbell Avenue. Mayor Patrick Madden:  "We are always seeking money for infrastructure improvements and the state of New York is working very closely with us, EFC Environmental Facilities Corporation, on both replacement of the water line that broke and then on another project down around Monument Square, which is a green infrastructure improvement."

East Greenbush Town Supervisor Jack Conway says infrastructure is top priority for the health and well-being of any community.  "We're on our knees right now. We need help. We're asking for it..."

The pricetag to fully restore New York's infrastructure: $46 billion.

The state budget is due by the end of the month.  

In his budget proposal given during the State of the State speech in January, Governor Andrew Cuomo said he was committed to achieving parity between the MTA and DOT.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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