WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is calling for a new measure that will give states the authority to use more federal funds on local bridge improvement projects.
Federal policy limits the amount of federal transportation funds states can use to repair those bridges. Gillibrand’s amendment proposal to the transportation re-authorization bill would make local bridge projects eligible for federal funding through the National Highway Performance Program. That would allow states greater flexibility to invest in bridge improvement and repair projects.
“The last transportation bill passed by congress actually cut the amount of federal money that could be spent on local bridge projects but in New York State over half of our bridges are locally owned and maintained,” Gillibrand said in a conference call with media. “This leads communities across our state struggling to maintain their local infrastructure because they can’t access the funding they need to fix the bridges, no matter how bad their condition is.”
According to the New York State Department of Transportation, more than one-third of the state’s 17,000 bridges are in need of repair, with 2,016 graded as structurally deficient and 4,735 functionally obsolete.
In Chautauqua County, there are a total of 558 bridges and of these, 40 are structurally deficient bridges and 102 are functionally obsolete bridges.
Gillibrand says her amendment wouldn’t require any additional funding, but would simply provide states more flexibility in how they allocate federal transportation money.
“It doesn’t cost any money because all this bill does is make available funds that are restricted to federal highways,” Gillibrand said. “So right now there is a very significant pot of money but it is restricted to federal highways. And so you just say state and local governments can prioritize whatever highway bridges they want to spend the money on, regardless if their federal highways or bridges, and that makes a huge difference.”