Of the many anguished and angry responses to yesterday’s passage of the MTA doomsday budget — and to Albany’s failure to arrive at a solution — Senate Minority Leader Dean Skelos‘s stood out:
“The three New York City Democrats running state government have failed to produce an agreement on the MTA to prevent fare hikes…
Governor Paterson has embraced the Ravitch Commission report, as well as Speaker Silver’s MTA plan. However, they continue to ignore the need for an Upstate road and bridge plan that has historically been negotiated at the same time as the MTA plan.” (Emphasis added.)
Such a statement implies that by linking the two issues, the core Senate Democrats who support a comprehensive MTA rescue plan could be joined by upstate Republicans, giving them enough votes to pass a plan that already has the support of the State Assembly and Gov. Paterson. Furthermore, an increase in NYSDOT’s capital program would go to good use, if the agency continues its commitment to “fix-it-first” policy.
In January testimony before Congress, NYSDOT Commissioner Astrid Glynn said the state was facing a “deficient bridge wave”: 1,450 bridges will become deficient in the next five years, with another 1,500 becoming deficient in the five years after that. Glynn also pointed out that the condition of New York’s roads had worsened over the last seven years, and that non-MTA transit agencies needed to update their fleets.
This focus on renewing the state’s infrastructure has been reflected in the way New York plans to spend its federal stimulus money. Stimulus project lists from NYSDOT and metropolitan planning organizations are heavily tilted towards road and bridge repair and bus purchases. But even after the stimulus is spent, there will be plenty of roads and bridges that need fixing. Now is as good a time as any to address them — especially if it means saving MTA riders in the process.