We are days away from a final budget in Albany, and yet no one has seen the list of road, bridge and transit projects that NYSDOT will tackle next year, to be funded by the budget currently being negotiated. No one has seen the proposed five-year capital plan, either.
And by “no one,” of course, we mean: the public, the advocates, the legislators, the transportation staff. In other words, everyone outside of the “four men-in-a-room”, and perhaps their respective staff members. Back in January, both were promised to be imminently forthcoming. And this isn’t the first time lists like these haven’t been forthcoming.
Why would we want a list?
- Albany has a checkered past of slipping pet transportation projects in without a democratic process—Senator Smith being a prime example of a short-circuited process.
- Advocates, the public and legislators would like to have some say in the development of project lists to be built, an opportunity to make the case for why some projects should be funded before others.
- This project list impacts not just NYSDOT, but the MTA. Historically, negotiations on the MTA and NYSDOT five-year capital plans have been coupled in the interest of assuring “parity” between upstate and down. We’ve had months to review the MTA’s Capital Plan because they have a statutory requirement to submit it on a certain date; NYSDOT has no comparable requirement.
- And advocates in Albany have been told point blank: no NYSDOT capital plan on the table, no discussion of the MTA’s capital plan.
Why keep this list in the dark?
- About 37 percent of major locally and state-maintained urban roads and highways are in poor condition.
- Only 20 percent of the state’s major urban roads are in good condition.
- New York State motorists fork over a total of $6.3 billion a year in additional vehicle operating costs because of the impacts of driving on rough roads, including accelerated vehicle depreciation, increased fuel consumption and tire wear.
- The average driver in the NYC metro area spends $694 each year as a result of driving on rough roads.
- Nearly 40 percent of locally and state-maintained bridges in New York show significant deterioration or do not meet current design standards.
- In the New York City urban area, nine percent of bridges are structurally deficient and 48 percent are functionally obsolete.
An actual project list, with a concrete funding amount, would enable a key calculation that is needed for the current budget negotiations. Will our investment trajectory improve the situation, or leave us falling yet further behind?