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Infrastructure deficit: U.S. Senate bill would boost funding for repairing bridges

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New York state receives $71 million from the federal government every year to fix hundreds of bridges that desperately need repair.

That doesn’t seem like a lot of money for structures that are known to be in very bad shape. In fact, dividing the $71 million by the 318 state bridges on this list leaves just $223,270.44 per project.

Now, $223,000-plus is nothing to sneeze at. And, let’s be honest, the federal government is not a bottomless pit filled with ready-to-hand-out cash.

But repairing infrastructure can be very expensive, and the price tag grows larger the longer these projects are put on hold. We cannot afford to sit around and watch these bridges crumble bit by bit as the years pass.

It was welcome news, therefore, that U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., has co-sponsored a bill to increase funding for these projects. He joined U.S. Sens. Robert Casey Jr., D-Pa., and Roy Blunt, R-Mo., in supporting a move to adjust the formula used to calculate how much states should receive for bridge projects that are considered “off-system,” which do not receive regular federal funding.

The bill calls for New York state’s funding for such projects to be increased from the $71 million it now receives to $119 million. The amount provided to the state is based on a formula set in 2009, which equaled 15 percent of total federal funding for bridges. The bill under consideration would raise this to 25 percent of the 2009 total.

“According to his office, 2,268 bridges in upstate New York have been found to be ‘functionally obsolete’ or ‘structurally deficient.’ This means 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 the bridge frequently rises above the bridge during floods,” according to a story Thursday in the Watertown Daily Times. “In Jefferson County, 68 — or 47 percent — of the 144 bridges in the county are designated ‘functionally obsolete and structurally deficient.’ James L. Lawrence Jr., Jefferson County highway superintendent, said as many as 30 bridges in the county are close to failure, but the county does not have the money to fix them on an annual basis.”

The additional funding will help address the repair needs of these bridges. Residents of the north country rely on crossing these bridges every day, so it’s imperative that they be fixed. This bill should be approved by the U.S. Senate as well as the House and signed into law as soon as possible.

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