A new study finds highways and bridges in New York and Massachusetts rank among the most deteriorated in the nation.
TRIP, a private nonprofit organization that researches, evaluates and distributes economic and technical data on surface transportation issues, is out with a report showing 13 percent of New York’s rural bridges are rated as structurally deficient, the 13th highest rate in the nation. And in neighboring Massachusetts, things aren't much better. Rocky Moretti is TRIP's Director of Policy and Research. "In Massachusetts, with 10 percent of its rural bridges structurally deficient that it ranks 22nd among states with bridge deficiencies, and the bridges in rural areas are absolutely vital to the functioning of the region's economy, and oftentimes these bridges will have to be closed or restricted to lighter weight vehicles, which creates a lot of economic hardship in these communities."
Moretti says there is a decided need to increase infrastructure investment in rural areas. The New York Farm Bureau's Director of Public Policy Jeff Williams says the status of roads and bridges is a major concern for farmers. "Especially that's how they get their crops and transport milk to processors. We need bridges that are up to weight limit and roads easily passable as critical to the success of the farm economy. When bridges are down it causes farmers to drive around 20 miles or more to get to the next bridge to cross, for example, the Erie Canal. So it really is a problem."
The TRIP report, entitled "Rural Connections: Challenges and Opportunities in America’s Heartland," evaluates the safety and condition of the nation’s rural roads and bridges and concludes the system is in need of improvements. "The report also took a look at the condition of major roads and found that in New York, 31 percent of its rural roads are in poor or mediocre condition. The report also found that in Massachusetts, with 13 percent of its rural roads in poor condition and 56 percent in mediocre condition, it has very high levels of roads and highways that need repairs now, and if you don't address those repairs now we know that deferred maintenance today costs 4 to 5 dollars in the future because it becomes that much more costly."
The Cuomo administration did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Baker Administration passed WAMC’s request for comment along to the Massachusetts Highway Department, which says in an email: it "looks forward to "reviewing this report and as always, is continuing to evaluate and prioritize infrastructure investments and improvements," accompanied by the following statement:
“Having invested over $2.8 billion in state infrastructure projects and authorized $700 million in municipal aid for local roadway and bridge projects over the last several years, the Department of Transportation is committed to working with our community partners to maintain a safe and reliable highway system for the people of Massachusetts.”
It should be noted that both states have road and bridge projects ongoing: In January, Gov. Cuomo announced the acceleration of a $150 million reconstruction project to build the Town of Woodbury Transit and Economic Development Hub in Orange County, as well directing $20.3 million in BRIDGE NY initiative funding to rehabilitate and replace 15 bridges and culverts across Western New York.
And the MassWorks program is addressing infrastructure issues in the Bay State. It was created under former Governor Deval Patrick in 2011 and expanded by the Baker administration.