State officials haven’t forgotten upstate New York’s economic growth continues to lag behind downstate.
That was the message Friday from state Transportation Commissioner Joan McDonald. It’s why Gov. Andrew Cuomo is proposing that upstate manufacturers pay no corporate tax and why he’s doubled down on tourism efforts to get out-of-staters and downstaters to trek upstate, she said.
“Three years ago, he said he would focus on upstate, and he’s doing that,” she said.
Schenectady County Community College hosted the commissioner Friday as she delivered a version of the governor’s State of the State address to a regional audience. Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam, Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy and Schenectady County Legislature Chairman Anthony Jasenski turned out to welcome McDonald and applaud the aspects of the governor’s message they found encouraging.
For the most part, the event was a rehashing of the address Cuomo delivered last week to a crowded Empire State Plaza Convention Center. McDonald spoke of the governor’s past accomplishments and some new proposals, including a plan to allow as many as 20 hospitals to prescribe medical marijuana.
Of particular interest to some in the room was a plan to repair and replace more than 100 bridges across the state with more flood-resistant structures.
“Those of you that lived through Irene and Lee know how important this is,” McDonald said. “Weather is affecting us whether you believe in climate change or not. Just this past spring, the Mohawk Valley suffered significant flooding … and it wasn’t even a named event. It was just because of higher than projected rainfall, and people were out of their homes for a long period of time and our infrastructure suffered.”
The flooding, which devastated the village of Fort Plain, was on Santabarbara’s mind Friday. His district includes Montgomery County, as well as parts of Schenectady and Albany counties.
“I’m happy to see they’re looking to invest in flood-resistant infrastructure,” he said. “Floods have affected this area over the years, and I think as we look forward, we want to be prepared for these natural disasters that will continue to happen. I just hope some of this investment will go into not just bridges, but the waterways and fortification under the bridges.”
Bridge replacement projects in flood-prone areas in the Capital Region have been targeted for Saratoga, Albany, Rensselaer, Greene, Warren, Washington and Columbia counties.
One includes the bridge that carries Route 9 over the Kayaderosseras Creek in the town of Malta. Built in 1961, it now carries an average of 9,850 vehicles a day, connecting the city of Saratoga Springs with the Northway.
Another project includes the bridge that carries Route 9N over the same creek, but in the northern Saratoga County town of Greenfield. Built in 1935, it’s considered an important connector between Saratoga County and the Adirondack Park.
Bridge replacement and repair projects have not yet been identified for Schenectady or Montgomery counties, where flooding has devastated communities in recent years.