The Senate passed legislation this week that would require that the money in the state’s Dedicated Highway and Bridge Trust Fund actually goes toward highway and bridge repairs. Currently, less than one-quarter of the $3.5 billion fund is spent on these areas. The rest pays for salaries and operational costs at the Department of Motor Vehicles, snow and ice removal and debt service.
“The dedicated fund exists specifically for bridge and road repair to make taxpayers safer,” Sen. Thomas Libous, D-Binghamton, said in a statement. “This fund has been raided for unrelated state projects for years. My BRIDGE Act would end the raids and create a transparent funding stream to keep our roads and bridges safer.”
Nearly 30 percent of the state’s bridges are rated fair or poor, according to Libous, who is sponsoring the Bridge and Road Investment and Dedicated Fund Guaranteed Enforcement Reform Act. The bill passed the GOP-controlled Senate last year. Its sponsor in the Democrat-led Assembly is Joe Morelle, D-Irondequoit, Monroe County. The legislation died in the Asssembly last year.
The bill would phase out use of the Highway and Bridge Trust Fund for non-bridge and road expenses over five years. The fund was created in 1991.
“Through the years, the money that was intended for road and bridge repair has been misused,” Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, R-Nassau County, said in a statement. “It’s time we protect this fund to make sure that our taxpayers’ money goes where it should and is invested in projects that keep them safe as they travel.”
Local governments maintain most of New York’s bridges and highways, but the state is responsible for about 15,000 miles of highway and more than 7,600 bridges.