Torrential March storms can make it seem like the sky is falling down, but the Associated General Contractors want New Yorkers to know it’s really the bridges. Their new project NYBridgesAreFallingDown.com uses NYSDOT data to identify 163 bridges throughout the state that are “very dangerous,” in worse condition than the Lake Champlain Bridge was before it was closed for safety reasons in October (it proved unsalvageable and was blown up in December). New York has also fallen down on the job, without a plan to invest sufficient money in keeping bridges safe.
The site features a color-coded, interactive, and very alarming map of all the counties in the state noting the percentage of deficient bridges. In all but one of NY’s 62 counties, over a fifth of bridges are deficient. And some counties, noted in ominous black, top the list with nerve wracking percentages. Bronx County tops the list with 70% of its bridge infrastructure deficient followed by Columbia County at 56% and Kings County (Brooklyn) at 51%.
Making this news even worse is that NYSDOT still does not have a capital program to guide its spending on roads and bridges. Earlier this year Gov. Paterson vetoed a proposed $25.8 billion, five-year capital program, suggesting a $7 billion, two-year plan instead. The State Senate’s budget proposal released yesterday would increase this to $10 billion, though it is not clear how this would be paid for.
State road and bridge repair and maintenance is paid for with federal and state funds, with the state contribution coming from the Dedicated Highway and Bridge Trust Fund. Six fees and taxes are dedicated to the Fund, which is supposed to be used only for road and bridge repair and maintenance. Instead, the Fund has been raided to pay for operating costs at DMV and NYSDOT, and because the Fund has been used to support bonds, an increasing portion of it has gone to pay debt service over the years. In fact, a 2009 report by State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli pointed out that only 34.9% of the Fund’s resources have been used to repair and improve roads and bridges since 1991. Because of this, New York has had to transfer money from general taxes into the Fund to keep it solvent in recent years. But the state’s budget crisis has put that funding source at risk as well.
Image: Via NYBridgesAreFallingDown.com.