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Officials: Capital Region roads, bridges in need of help

Officials: Capital Region roads, bridges in need of help

The Capital Region needs another $200 million a year in investment to keep up with its infrastructur
Officials: Capital Region roads, bridges in need of help
Tom Ryan, of Scotia, left, looks at a map with Senior Transportation Manager Jen Ceponis, right, during a public information meeting hosted by the Capital District Transportation Committee (CDTC) at Schenectady County Community College on Thursday, Mar...
Photographer: Patrick Dodson

The Capital Region needs another $200 million a year in investment to keep up with its infrastructure needs, a regional transportation official said Thursday.

That means the overall condition of roads and bridges is deteriorating from lack of investment, Capital District Transportation Committee Executive Director Michael V. Franchini said at a meeting on the region’s transportation future.

“More and more bridges are getting structurally deficient,” he said. “We’re falling farther and farther behind on infrastructure.”

Franchini spoke at a lightly attended meeting Wednesday evening at Schenectady County Community College, the first in a series of meetings the CDTC is holding as it develops New Visions 2040, a 25-year plan for the region’s transportation future.

The CDTC, which controls all federal transportation funding for Albany, Schenectady, Saratoga and Rensselaer counties, receives $50 million to $60 million a year to spread among road and bridge repair projects and transportation studies.

Of the 1,087 bridges in the four-county region, 355 are considered structurally deficient. But replacing them is time-consuming and expensive — it’s taken nearly a decade to plan and fund a new Rexford Bridge, a project that could finally start this year.

“A large project will start five years out before you even get to construction, so planning is needed,” Franchini said.

The talk at the meeting blended large future technology concepts — self-driving cars, new composite bridge construction materials that might hold up to severe weather better than steel — with local issues that affect people’s quality of life.

Glenville town Councilman Jim Martin said officials there are concerned about growing traffic volume on Route 50 between Scotia and the Saratoga County line. Left turns onto the highway are becoming more difficult because of traffic, he said.

“This [planning] process really does pretty well,” Martin said. “The problem is, it’s underfunded. I’d like to see more infrastructure investment made. It’s just tough with limited funding and ever-increasing need.”

Most highway improvement projects rely on federal funding from the 18.4-cent-per-gallon gasoline tax, which hasn’t been increased since 1993 — and few think will be increased by the current Congress, even though the federal transportation spending bill must be renewed in May.

The lack of funding for roads and bridges is also an issue for independent truckers, said Louis Esposito of Princetown, a director of the Independent Drivers Association and 46-year trucker. The number of national retailers’ warehouses in this region means freight trucking will keep growing, he said. Another issue truckers face is the lack of places they can park overnight.

“None of the distribution centers allow overnight parking,” Esposito said.

Four more public meetings are planned on the draft New Visions 2040 plan: Thursday, March 19, at Sand Creek Middle School in Colonie; Wednesday, March 25, at Hudson Valley Community College; Tuesday, March 31, at the Empire State Plaza in Albany; and Tuesday, April 7, at Saratoga Springs City Hall. All the meetings will run from 6 to 8 p.m.

“We’ll consider every comment, no doubt about it,” Franchini said.

He said trends that planners are picking up on include more people settling in urban areas and more using bicycles or buses as a primary means of transportation.

“More and more people are using [mass transit] because they choose to, not because they have to,” Franchini said.

Those trends can influence how the committee recommends federal money be spent, he said.

The committee includes representatives of all four counties, eight cities, Colonie and other towns, and agencies including the state Department of Transportation and Capital Region Planning Commission.

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