Legislators grew frustrated with New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) Commissioner Joan McDonald at a hearing last week, bristling at what Senator Diane Savino (D-Staten Island/Brooklyn) called her “almost deliberate opaqueness” during a session about the department’s proposed 2012-13 budget.
Governor Cuomo’s budget makes significant infrastructure investments, and the public is eager for details about its spending targets and financing. When legislators inquired, though, Commissioner McDonald was short on information.
Senator Fuschillo (R-Merrick) asked for a list of bridges and roads that would be repaired with the $4.5 billion allocated to the NY Works plan.
“We’re working on the list,” replied McDonald.
Fuschillo also asked for more information on the plan to consolidate NYSDOT’s regional offices.
“We’re studying that now,” said McDonald.
Senator Golden (R-Brooklyn) asked about funding the Tappan Zee Bridge replacement.
“We’re looking at all the options,” McDonald said.
In a moment of frustration, Senator Golden rhetorically asked, “how are we supposed to make an informed decision when your responses are uniformly ‘we’re studying that’?” (The Senate and Assembly evaluate the Governor’s budget every year).
Information-hungry legislators emphasized the need for a Memorandum of Understanding between the agency and the Legislature on the NYSDOT Capital Program’s targets. They also reminded McDonald that the Western New York NYSDOT region was shorted $167 million in 2008 and asked for a regional breakdown of NYSDOT’s spending.
Commissioner McDonald had a firmer answer for Senator Liz Krueger (D-New York), who asked if any of the projects in the NY Works plan were for public transportation, as opposed to just roads and bridges. McDonald answered in the negative, but said that that NYSDOT was “working with the federal government to assist upstate [transit] systems.”