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Schumer seeks more federal funds for bridge repairs

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 19 June 2014 at 12:00 am

File photo by Tom Rivers – The Brown Street Bridge in Albion has been closed to traffic for two years. It is one of several canal bridges in Orleans County that are either closed or have had the weight restrictions lowered.

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer is co-sponsor of legislation that would direct $48 million more in federal funds to New York to fix bridges.

Schumer’s office says 2,200 bridges in the state are rated as structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, including 18 in Orleans County.

The federal government currently directs $71 million for local bridge repair projects in state, and that funding hasn’t been increased since 2009. The transportation bill going through Congress would continue to lock in the same federal funding level until 2020.

“Keeping our bridges in good health is a top priority for communities across the state, but towns and counties have had to make upgrades and repairs with a limited amount of federal funding to cover the costs,” Schumer said in a statement.

The Orleans County Legislature and local village and town governments have been pressing the state and federal governments for more help in maintaining the bridges. The closed or reduced-weight canal bridges, in particular, have increased travel times for farm equipment, school buses, fire trucks and residents.

“More and more of our local bridges are in need of repairs each year, but local budgets have gotten tighter and federal funding to maintain these smaller bridges has not kept up with demand,” Schumer said. “Now that we are considering a new transportation bill in Congress, it is the perfect opportunity to finally provide towns and counties with the funding for local bridges they deserve, and this bipartisan legislation does just that.”

Schumer’s office identifies the following bridges in Orleans as structurally deficient or functionally obsolete:

Route 279 over Beardsley Creek; Route 279 over Oak Orchard Creek; Waterport Carlton Road over Beardsley Creek; Hulberton Road over West Branch Sandy Creek; Oak Orchard Road over Manning Muckland Creek; Monroe-Orleans County Line Road over E Br Sandy Creek; Knowlesville Road over the Erie Canal; Marshall Road over Johnson Creek; Culvert Road over Fish Creek; Portage Road over Fish Creek; East Scott Road over Fish Creek; Bills Road over Marsh Creek; Kent Road over Marsh Creek; Carlton Road over Sandy Creek; Dunlap Road over Oak Orchard Creek; Hindsburg Road over the Erie Canal; Allen’s Bridge Road over the Erie Canal; Marshall Road over the Erie Canal; Lattin’s Farm Drive over County Road 2 and the Erie Canal.

Schumer said more federal funds are needed to prevent more bridge closures in the state.

“Counties in New York maintain over 9,000 local bridges, many of which are structurally deficient and in need of replacement or repair,” said Stephen J. Acquario, executive director of the New York State Association of Counties. “We need to renew our federal focus on local bridges, and Senator Schumer’s support of this legislation comes at the ideal time.”

Counties and towns across New York State rely on a specific allocation of federal funding to maintain and repair many of their local bridges, specifically the 7,464 local bridges. The dollar amount allotted for these “off-system” bridges has not increased in five years.

In the case of New York, that means the state receives approximately $71 million per year to spend on off-system bridges. On the other hand, funding for the 9,992 other New York State bridges that are considered part of the federal highway system has increased over time at the rate of inflation.

Schumer said that it is unacceptable that funding has not increased for local, off-system bridges, particular when so many of them – 2,268 in total in Upstate New York – have been found to be “functionally obsolete” or “structurally deficient.” These designations mean that either elements of the bridge have been found to have significant deterioration, the bridge no longer conforms to current design standards, or a waterway below frequently rises above the bridge during floods. It also means they are at risk of closure.

Schumer is co-sponsoring legislation to be included in the Transportation Bill that would increase total funding for these local bridges by almost $50 million per year. This legislation would increase the funding amount for off-system bridges from 15 percent of the 2009 total to 25 percent of the 2009 total, which would bring New York State’s total from $71 million to $119 million.

Schumer is co-sponsoring this bipartisan legislation with Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Roy Blunt (R-MO).