Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney was in Orange County Thursday to talk about his bill that was included in a $1.5 trillion infrastructure package the House passed last week. Maloney, an 18th District Democrat, stood with the Orange County executive near a bridge that would benefit from the legislation.
House Democrats passed the Moving Forward Act that would send billions of dollars to New York over the next five years, jumpstarting infrastructure and transportation projects. Maloney says $23.6 billion in highway and transit funds would be headed to New York.
“That’s in addition to billions of dollars of funding for projects to clean up our water, rebuild our schools, help our hospitals, and do much more,” says Maloney.
Maloney, who chairs Marine Transportation subcommittee on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, says he was able to have several amendments included into the FAST Act, a component of the overall package.
“I was successful in including an amendment to make transit grants more competitive for more communities in need. That will specifically help communities like Newburgh and Poughkeepsie. I also had an amendment to reauthorize the Scenic Byway program, which is really important for our roads around things like Bear Mountain and Washington’s Headquarters. And I also passed an amendment to keep taxpayer funded dollars out of the hands of Chinese state-owned companies,” says Maloney. “But, most importantly, and what I’m most proud of, we successfully included in the bill my legislation — the Bridge Investment Act — in the bill the House just passed,” Maloney says. “This is an historic investment in state and local bridges. It would dedicate $28 billion to fix our structurally deficient bridges like the one right behind us.”
The bridge behind him crosses Moodna Creek in New Windsor.
“This bridge, though safe to drive over, is considered structurally deficient. That means it needs considerable work to keep it functional. With over 24,000 daily crossings, it’s one of the most travelled over bridges in New York’s 18th Congressional District, and it’s irresponsible to wait any longer to fix it,” says Maloney. “In the district I represent, which includes Orange and Putnam Counties and parts of Dutchess and Westchester Counties, there are 190 bridges in structurally deficient condition, in poor condition, about 11 percent of all the bridges in my district. In the entire state, we have over 1,700 bridges that are in poor condition. So we’ve got to get moving on fixing these bridges. My bill will help us get us there.”
Republican Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus is eager to see bridges in his county like the one over Moodna Creek on 9W repaired before they become unsafe.
“Every day that goes by and as they get worse and worse in condition, it gets more costly to replace it. So I’m on board 100 percent with the congressman. We need to do something about it. At the same time, it also employs people, puts people to work,” says Neuhaus. “And it’s a great thing that we can all agree on. And, like he said, it’s bipartisan There shouldn’t be Republicans or Democrats fighting him on this bill. This should be a no brainer, and particularly in this time, getting through this COVID pandemic that we’re still facing.”
Senate Republicans opposed the Move Forward Act, in part, and President Trump has vowed to veto it in its current state as it contains numerous green initiatives to address climate change. Again, Maloney.
“The president is free to propose his own legislation. We in the House offered to work with him more than a year ago. He’s yet to put forward a bill,” says Maloney. “In addition, the Senate is, of course, free to pass its bill, and we could conference them. And there’s no reason why they couldn’t do this in pieces, and I would support that.”
Meantime, Neuhaus says the county and municipalities do not have money to address infrastructure projects. He says Orange has been losing $1 million a week in sales-tax revenues during the COVID-19 crisis.
“Infrastructure projects, whether they were in a capital plan or in their current spending plan, have been shelved but for the emergency ones they have to do,” Neuhaus says.
Maloney says there’s a perk for local governments in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act.
“The FAST Act would provide 100 percent federal funding to every project undertaken in 2021. Normally, the state and local authorities need to match federal funding with 10 or 20 percent of local dollars,” Maloney says. “We’re waiving that provision in the FAST Act.”
The bridge in Orange County that crosses Moodna Creek was built in 1932 and is currently rated in “poor” condition by the Federal Highway Administration. Bridges rated in “poor” condition are still safe to cross but require significant rehabilitation and repairs.