Elected officials from around the Capital Region gathered in Cohoes Thursday to discuss new capital funding in the state budget meant to help municipalities absorb the cost of maintaining state routes.
The "City Touring Routes Program" is a new highway and bridge project fund created by New York state for localities that will reimburse cities, villages, and towns for capital projects on local roads and bridges. Democratic State Assemblyman John McDonald represents the 108th district.
" This program provides $100 million statewide to establish a new capital program to reimburse cities, villages and towns for capital project costs on local roads and bridges. And it's allocated based on the New York or U.S. signed touring route miles."
McDonald says touring routes are heavily-traversed state or federal roadways that run through cities and towns. In the Capital Region, five municipalities have borne responsibility for maintaining the portions of such roadways within their borders.
"For the most part, these five cities have been taking it on the chin. For the past umpteen years, these routes have been designated, seeing increased traffic, increased maintenance costs, and no money to help support it. I'm pleased that we can say today, thanks to the efforts of many, $10 million of that $100 million is going to help these five communities, which is a great benefit not only to the community, but also in to the mayors, of course they're happy, but just as importantly to the people that they serve and the people that traverse. Almost over $4.2 million is allocated for the city of Albany, $1.4 [million] to the city of Cohoes, Rensselaer $373,000, the city of Troy over $3.7 million, and the city of Watervliet over $895,000. And as a reminder, this is allocated based on the number of miles they actually have in your community that fall under designation."
McDonald says the funding will be released "over the coming months.” Fellow Democratic Assemblywoman Pat Fahy of the 109th District credits stimulus money with jumpstarting the touring routes program.
"The money overall, is record setting. And huge kudos to the entire congressional delegation. Because what really helped us, what really changed the entire budget debate this year that we were all dreading, is the fact that the rescue plan, the Federal Rescue Plan came in with tens of billions more into this state to assist our residents. And it will be a record setting $6.4 billion, I think, into just transportation in New York state."
Mayor Patrick Madden, also a Democrat, says the money will help Troy repair potholes.
"The freeze thaw cycles that we see increasingly as time goes on, wreak havoc on our infrastructure, particularly our roads, the ability to step in quickly, and make those repairs is absolutely essential to the safety of the community, not just the drivers but pedestrians as well."
Rensselaer Mayor Mike Stammel, a Republican, agrees the money is long overdue.
"With money like this, I can spend more time and money dealing with or working to enhance those sidewalks and roads that are not on state roads, and these state roads do need our help. I know in my particular community, a lot of these roads, connect with the roads in question, connect with bridges. And there's not a lot of residential area around them. But we still have to maintain them, and this money will help us do that."
Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan, also a Democrat, says for years municipalities have been asking for roadway assistance.
"This is about creating jobs, expanding the opportunities that we have to get work done in the city of Albany, and that is going to create opportunities. We know that that is something that all of us are focused on in this recovery, is ensuring that we are investing funds in ways that grows our economy, and that provides opportunity. So this is really important, not just for our cities, but for our workforce as we put these dollars to work and we see the incredible things that are going to happen with this funding."
McDonald expects the money will be released "over the coming months."