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Orleans wants state to use dedicated funds for highway infrastructure

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 1 April 2014 at 12:00 am

Photo by Tom Rivers – The Brown Street Bridge in Albion has been closed for nearly two years. Several other bridges also are shut down or face weight reductions in Orleans County.

A state fund that was set up for infrastructure repairs in 1991 has been raided to pay for other state expenses, leaving less money for road and bridge work, Orleans County legislators said.

County officials have been pressing the state in recent years to repair canal bridges. Several are either closed or have weight reductions. That adds travel time for residents, businesses and farmers who need the bridges to get across the canal.

“We have desperate infrastructure needs,” said Legislator Ken DeRoller, R-Kendall.

Orleans County legislators formally called on the state to stop siphoning off money from the fund to pay for borrowing and operating costs for other state agencies.

Residents and taxpayers pay billions in taxes and fees into the Dedicated Highway and Bridge Trust Fund. They pay through highway taxes, motor vehicle taxes and fees, petroleum business taxes and other fees.

However, legislators said more than 75 percent of the funds or $1.6 billion was diverted to other agencies in the last state fiscal year.

The County Legislature passed a resolution urging the governor and State Legislature to develop a multi-year plan for the fund to meet the infrastructure needs for bridges and roads in the state.

“Hopefully the governor will pay a little attention to it,” said Legislator Fred Miller, D-Albion.