ELIZABETHTOWN - The funds available for maintaining good roads and bridges throughout New York State are not enough to keep pace with needed repairs, officials from the state Department of Transportation told Essex County supervisors Aug. 31.
NYSDOT Region 1 Director Mary Ivey and regional planning and program manager Robert Hansen gave a presentation to supervisors at their Ways and Means committee meeting, outlining the dire situation facing New York roadways through the next five years.
According to Hansen, keeping bridges in good condition has been a major priority in Region 1, which stretches from Essex County southward to Greene and Columbia counties. Over a quarter of bridges in the region are falling into poor condition, however, and will require extensive repairs by 2013.
Pavement, too, is an issue he said, noting that an estimated $103 million will be required just to fund planned resurfacing on state highways in Region 1.
"It's not just in New York," Hansen said. "The whole country needs to have a serious discussion about what its going to do with its transportation infrastructure."
Hansen referred to reports from state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli that estimate an $80 billion shortfall for transportation projects over the next 20 years.
"Local governments need to have a long-term plan," he said.
Afterward, Hansen fielded questions from supervisors, many of whom expressed concerns for projects in their own backyard.
Chesterfield Supervisor Gerald Morrow was among many who called for the county to be transferred to Region 7, which stretches from Jefferson to Clinton County. He suggested that competition with other projects in the Capital Region caused some road projects in Essex County to be ignored.
"If we could get out of Region 1 and get into Region 7, I think we'd be better off," he said.
Jay Supervisor Randy Douglas agreed, noting a project that recently commenced in the neighboring town of Black Brook, in Clinton County, had been promised by the previous Region 1 director to include the Jay side of AuSable Forks.
"It seems like we get the short end of the stick because of where we're located," Douglas said.
Hansen said that while Region 1 has an annual budget of over $98,000, Region 7 only has $34,000 because it includes far less bridges. Still, a majority of supervisors agreed with Morrow.
Keene Supervisor Bill Ferebee complained of the need for a culvert replacement that arose from installing a new water system in the town. He said while the state was willing to provide a culvert, they would not provide the labor to install it.
Hansen expressed sympathy, noting similar situations regarding other culvert replacements.
"We're not ignorant to what's out there," said Hansen. "We're just frustrated at how to deal with it with such a limited budget."
North Elba Supervisor Roby Politi told of a bridge on Adirondack Loj Road which will likely be taken over by the county because it's cost prohibitive for the town to replace. He said the previous regional director had promised to replace the bridge, which is likely to be closed if not replaced soon.
Hansen said in order for the road to be handled by the state, it would have to be made "institutional" by making some of the land it accesses state-owned.
Schroon Lake Supervisor Cathy Moses said too much state money was being spent on sign replacement instead of road repairs. Hansen said replacing the signs was done to comply with a federal mandate.
Randy Preston, supervisor of Wilmington agreed, telling of how a sign directing motorists to Haselton was misspelled when replaced last year. Also, he said, Haselton has not existed as a community for more than 75 years.
Other supervisors stressed the importance of major repair projects, such as repavement of Route 22 near Willsboro and revitalization of the Crown Point bridge to Vermont.
Essex Supervisor Ron Jackson noted the bridge is not only a major corridor for commerce, but a much-needed route for emergency vehicles.
"If that bridge has to be closed for any length of time, you're talking life or death, without question," he said.