State aid for highway repairs is on the rise this year and it’s probably a good thing. Auto-repair shop owners said Tuesday that the pothole season is in full swing and suspension repairs are keeping them busy.
“We’ve been busy with front-end work, for sure,” said Joe Polidore III of The Tire Center in Johnstown.
“It’s been more than average, for sure. I would definitely say the roads are worse this year, this spring. … I can see a trend,” he said.
State crews were busy Tuesday patching potholes at several locations in Colonie and Albany.
Department of Transportation spokesman Peter VanKeuren said it’s tough to quantify whether this is a banner year for potholes.
“On our 1-800-POTHOLE line we’ve had about an average number for this year compared to other years,” VanKeuren said.
“We’ve had more of a freeze-and-thaw cycle, which doesn’t help anything. But spring is the time for potholes.”
According to the region’s lawmakers, grants to counties, cities, towns and villages will increase this year.
City engineers and town highway superintendents rely on the CHIPs, or Consolidated Highway Improvement Program grants, to resurface their roads. But the grant funds fall “absolutely” far short of the actual need, Johnstown City Engineer Chad Kortz said.
In Johnstown, which has about 45 miles of streets, the CHIPs funds only provided enough to repave 1.5 miles last year, Kortz said.
This year, the highway repair grants are up throughout the state, as much as 22 percent in some municipalities.
The state Senate originally proposed static funding for the coming fiscal year, a total of about $312.5 million.
According to the New York State Association of Town Highway Superintendents, the Assembly “upped the ante” by about $60 million and both houses eventually agreed to spend $363 million.
That’s the good news for highway superintendents. The bad? The rising cost of asphalt will likely eat up the extra money, and departments may accomplish less this year despite the aid increase.
Richard Walters, the town of Onondaga highway superintendent and the vice president of the state association, said a ton of asphalt last year cost $39. “With the escalation right now, the month of April, it’s $46.12 and that’s per our county contract,” Walters said.
“Unfortunately, that’s the situation. We take two steps forward and then two steps back. There’s the fuel situation. … It’s very difficult to figure a budget, and I’d say most counties are scaling back what they’re going to accomplish,” Walters said.
In the Capital Region, Albany County is in line for $2.06 million, an 11.8 percent increase, while the city of Albany is due $1.29 million, a 20 percent increase, according to the office of Assemblyman Ronald Canestrari, D-Cohoes.
Cohoes ($300,000) and Watervliet ($177,000) are both up 17 percent.
Albany County towns will split $1.58 million, a 22 percent increase, and the six villages another $300,000, a 20 percent hike.
Fulton County and its municipalities are in line for a total of $2.28 million, an 18.7 percent or $360,000 increase, according to the office of Sen. Hugh Farley, R-Niskayuna. Montgomery County numbers are pegged at $3.14 million, an 18.6 percent jump.
Saratoga County totals stand at $5.04 million, an increase of 17.5 percent, while Schenectady County will receive $3 million in total highway aid, an increase of $447,000, or 17.5 percent.
Schoharie County, according to the office of Sen. James Seward, R-Milford, will receive a total of $2.9 million, an increase of more than $478,000.
The county will receive $1.67 million, the towns will split $1.19 million and the villages $118,000.