Members of Rebuild NY Now, a broad-based coalition seeking to raise awareness about the state’s infrastructure needs, spoke at the Albany County Office Building Tuesday.
Local elected officials, members of organized labor, local Chambers of Commerce and representatives of private businesses gathered to bring attention to New York's crumbling highways and aging bridges, in efforts to underline their cause: convince the state to use its $5 billion budget surplus from recent settlements against overseas banks to fund infrastructure projects.
Michael Lyons represents the New York State Conference of Operating Engineers. "The New York State infrastructure is crumbling. Especially this winter, road conditions are deplorable. We need help to restore safety to our transportation network."
Rick Kukuk is Clifton Park Superintendent of Highways and a member of the executive committee for the New York State Association of Town Superintendents of Highways. "In 2013, we commissioned a report that estimated our annual local road and bridge funding gap of $1.3 billion for New York's localities located outside of New York City. Over 600 town and county highway superintendents as well as many of our industry partners, are coming to Albany today and tomorrow to meet with legislators on our annual advocacy day. We're asking for an increase for chips funding as well as state aid to local road, bridges and culvert programs. The governor and legislature must adequately invest in infrastructure that is necessary for the safety and traveling public and New York's economy."
State Senator George Amedore, a Republican from the 46th district, is on the same page. "Investing in New York's infrastructure is vital to rebuilding our economies, helping to create jobs, and it's much needed here in upstate New York. Far too long, the upstate infrastructure has been overlooked, or has just had some trickling of investment dollars from the state, and it's time that we get our fair and equitable share."
Democratic Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy says he'd like to pave more local streets. "We also have needs for water and sewer upgrades, and just maintenance, and so we would like the state to really be a full partner in maintaining the quality of life in Schenectady and communities across the State Of New York."
Other groups have been calling for lawmakers to earmark the budget surplus for education. Assemblywoman Pat Fahy, an Albany Democrat, says while she's not sure how much will go toward infrastructure, she's confident it will be a substantial piece of the overall pie. "I just came from a meeting an hour ago, meeting with a number of members, to really make sure that we are weighing in on this issue along with a number of other upstate-related issues.”
Recent studies cited by the Albany Ironworkers show that for every billion dollars spent on infrastructure repair and development, more than 28,000 jobs are created.