Nearly two months ago, New York State legislators approved a $27 billion 5-year capital plan for roads, bridges and non-MTA transit. But for the second year in a row, the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) withheld the list of approved projects. Now, with construction season upon us, New York’s taxpayers still don’t know which transportation improvements and projects their tax dollars will support. Whispers in Albany this week revealed that legislators are still horsetrading to get their communities’ projects on the ever-elusive list.
During this year’s budget process, despite the support of 43 Assemblymembers and over 60 organizations, the state failed to create a dedicated fund for walking and biking projects that protect the most vulnerable users of our roads: pedestrians and bicyclists, who represent 27 percent of the people who die on our streets. These funds would have matched federal dollars and helped communities to build walkable and bikeable downtowns. Without dedicated dollars or a project list from NYSDOT, there is no way to know how much of the approved $27 billion will go towards improving sidewalks, trails and bike lanes–much less whether those funds are enough or going to the most-needed projects.
Senator Andrew Lanza and Assemblymember Nily Rozic have introduced legislation (S.7608/A.9872) that would ensure more transparency on how public money is spent on New York’s transportation infrastructure, including requiring NYSDOT to publicly share the list of proposed projects which will be required to be submitted before budget season begins. Response to the bill has been strong: in just a couple weeks, over 50 legislators have signed on as co-sponsors.
This legislation would help assure decisions would be made on a 20-year-needs assessment while mandating a publicly-available 5-year capital plan in time for public review before the budget is approved. Instead, the current process is an example of the behind-the-scenes decision-making that has dominated much of state policy. You might be waiting for years to find out which projects are coming to your community. Until this legislation is passed, New Yorkers will remain in the dark.