U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer was in Albany Monday afternoon to push for a major infrastructure proposal. WAMC's Capital Region Bureau Chief Dave Lucas reports from the Corning Preserve.
Flanked by local officials and union workers, with the Livingston Avenue Bridge as a backdrop, the Democrat promoted his recently unveiled $1 trillion infrastructure plan. He says adjusting federal tax rates could be key to addressing the Capital Region’s water and sewer infrastructure. "Guess what would happen if this bridge, 115 years old, were to fail, Amtrak passenger service west and north of the Albany Rensselaer station would be gone. And a whole regional economy would collapse. So you can't keep ignoring this. We've seen in place after place bridges, roads get damaged and the whole economy is suffering."
Schumer said there is no official price tag on the bridge’s replacement, but compared it to the 110-year old Susquehanna River Rail Bridge in Maryland: its replacement is slated to cost between $800 million and $1 billion.
The New York Bicycling Coalition's Leah Golby hopes Schumer's plans for the bridge include it complementing the proposed Albany Skyway, which will transform a highway ramp into an elevated park with waterfront access. "That concept of providing biking and walking for people, whether they'll be using the bridge for commuting purposes, for recreation or for health, the New York Bicycling Coalition sees this as a terrific investment."
Schumer also pointed out that in the first two months of the year, the City of Albany has already dealt with 29 water main breaks. City Treasurer Darius Shahinfar is a fellow Democrat: "Fundamentally at the local level we simply don't have the means to pay for larger projects like this. Larger sewer infrastructure projects, larger water infrastructure projects, that money has to come from the state and the federal government or it simply doesn't get done."
Schumer says infrastructure repair and construction projects like refurbishing or rebuilding the Livingston Avenue bridge could create hundreds of jobs and provide a shot in the arm to the Capital Region economy. "Same with our water and sewer. Here in the Capital Region municipal water and sewer is always in need of repair. Water main pipes, sometimes they're a hundred years old, they break in the freezing weather and then the thawing weather of our Northeastern climate. Recent studies show that we need about $30 billion, OK, for water and sewer. Well who's gonna pay it? There are only two choices. The ratepayer, or the federal government can step up to the plate, which it hasn't done in a long time."
Schumer says projects could be funded through implementation of five measures: returning the top individual tax rate to 39.6 percent, restoring the Individual Alternative Minimum Tax to 2017 law, restoring estate and gift taxes, closing the carried interest loophole and adjusting the corporate tax rate to 25 percent. With Republicans in charge of Congress and the White House, those changes are long shots.