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Lewis County voices concerns over CHIP and bridge funding

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LOWVILLE — More than 400 highway superintendents from counties, towns and villages across the state converged on Albany last week to voice concerns over the state’s aging infrastructure.

The group requested an additional $50 million in funding for the state’s Consolidated Highway Improvement Program, along with a proposal to create a program specifically to fund bridges and culverts.

Lewis County had a large show of support, according to county Highway Superintendent David L. Becker.

“We were among 600-something orange shirts in the capital,” he said, as consultants and others in the industry joined.

“It makes a difference,” Mr. Becker said of presenting their ideas to their representatives.

Last year, a similar show of solidarity resulted in a $75 million increase in CHIP funds, the first increase in five years.

Mr. Becker said funding a program for bridges and culverts is especially important.

“Across the state, 34.5 percent of local bridges are deficient,” he said.

Money for bridges comes from federal funding, which Mr. Becker said often doesn’t trickle down to local bridges.

“We don’t have the traffic the larger areas have,” he said.

Culverts are not part of the federal program.

“What a lot of people don’t know is that a bridge is 20 feet. They might drive over something that’s 19 and a half feet, but that’s not a bridge, that’s a culvert,” he said. “Those are things that aren’t being inspected.”

Without federal government restrictions, he said a local program could build and repair bridges at a fraction of the cost.

The group asked for $200 million for bridges and culverts, though Mr. Becker said any amount would be a help.

An additional $50 million in CHIP money would bring this year’s budgeted funds to $488 million.

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