Upcoming legislative session to pit mega-projects versus maintenance on infrastructure
Amid a growing national discussion on how the United States can afford to maintain its infrastructure, New York politicians will be focused on supporting the state’s existing infrastructure and ensuring continued funding for current projects.
During 2016-17 budget negotiations, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders agreed to a $27.1 billion multi-year capital plan for the state Department of Transportation to ensure parity in funding for the MTA’s $26.6 billion Capital Plan, which was approved earlier this year.
“The legislation that we pass in this building is important, the work we do in this building is important. What is just as important, if not more important, is the actual construction that this state does – the development, the building, the infrastructure,” Cuomo said during a press conference in March. “Upgrade your infrastructure, it’s the single-best common denominator to help economic growth.”
Since taking office, Cuomo has approved several massive construction projects, such as the reconstruction of the Tappan Zee Bridge, a new transportation hub at Penn Station and Farley Station and a new LaGuardia Airport. In December, the first phase of the long-planned Second Avenue Subway is set to open, a project that was first proposed back in the 1920s and broke ground in 2007.
Assemblyman Robert Rodriguez, chairman of the Assembly subcommittee on infrastructure, said one his biggest priorities for the next legislative session is ensuring that the second phase of the Second Avenue Subway continues to move forward.
Many transportation advocates and budget analysts have expressed concern about the rising cost of maintaining the state’s infrastructure while funding these larger projects.
“The mega-projects do end up staking a substantive amount of new capital dollars. We know in our current (MTA) Capital Plan, $22 billion of it approximately is going to “State of Good Repair,” Rodriguez said. “So, the balance of that is going to either service enhancements or new capital, which is not a lot of money when you’re putting $22 billion just to keep everything running.”
To supplement the MTA Capital Plan and support new infrastructure projects, Rodriguez will once again introduce his “Move NY Fair Plan.”
The plan calls for a standard toll ($5.54 with E-Z Pass or $8 without) around the central business district, a new tolling point on 60th Street in Manhattan and a per-mile surcharge on taxi rides in Midtown and Lower Manhattan to provide an extra $1.35 billion annually in new revenue.
“We think it is tremendously important to think about how we provide additional funding for regional transportation initiatives,” Rodriguez said. “There are some that are covered in the MTA Capital Plan, but we also know that we want to do more outside of the MTA Capital Plan, and this an opportunity for us to support the plan but also to do more and not to rely strictly on fare increases, which is what MTA is doing right now.”
Another top issue during next year’s state budget negotiations will be the reauthorization of design-build, which is set to expire in 2017 after a two-year extension was passed in 2015. Many state lawmakers were disappointed when legislation to extend the authority to use design-build projects in New York City failed to pass the state Legislature in the previous session.
Upstate transportation advocates applauded Cuomo’s inclusion of $27.1 billion to the state Department of Transportation, but there will likely be a push to increase the state’s Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS) funding. The 2016-17 state budget agreement included $400 million over a four-year period for local projects distributed based on the CHIPS formula.
“Another area of concern that we continue to hear on the local municipality level is the CHIPS funding,” Rodriguez said. “That’s how they rely on getting their matches for local investments in roads and bridges, so those are important programs.”
State Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Joe Robach declined to respond to repeated interview requests.
Despite being a New York City lawmaker, Rodriguez stressed the importance of equitable funding throughout the state.
“It isn’t a situation where there are two New Yorks,” he said. “There’s only one New York, and I certainly recognize that both of those areas need to be funded appropriately.”
WHAT GOT DONE
- $27.1 billion transportation multi-year capital plan
- $400 million for CHIPS funding
- $8.3 billion for the MTA Capital Plan
WHAT’S ON THE AGENDA
- Reauthorizing design-build legislation
- Expanding design-build for New York City-based projects
- Phase two of the Second Avenue Subway
- Increasing Chips funding
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