GovernmentThe White Plains Examiner

Labor Leaders, Elected Officials Push State for More Money to Fix Roads

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Pictured, from left, at last week’s rally to urge the state to use federal money to repair the roads and highways in the region and throughout the state are state Sen. Shelley Mayer, Assemblyman Tom Abinanti, Teamsters 456 President Louis Picani, Rep. Mondaire Jones and Construction Industry Council Executive Director John Cooney Jr.

Labor leaders and elected officials urged Gov. Kathy Hochul earlier this week to use nearly $5 billion available in federal money that would increase funds to help repair crumbling bridges and deteriorating roads and highways.

Representatives of Teamsters & Chauffeurs Local 456 explained at a Feb. 28 rally in Elmsford that the proposed five-year state Department of Transportation (DOT) capital plan of $6.5 billion annually from 2023 to 2027 is insufficient. The extra $5 billion received by the state from the $1.2 trillion federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, should be added to the spending.

John Cooney Jr., executive director of the Construction Industry Council (CIC) of Westchester & Hudson Valley, Inc., argued that with skyrocketing inflation the $6.5 billion actually represents a significant decrease from the $12 billion budgeted for road repairs since 2020 when factoring in inflation.

“New York State clearly is not taking advantage of a generational increase in federal funding,” Cooney said. “Rather the state is choosing to pocket the increased funding and divert it to sectors where these federal monies will have much less impact on the long-term health of both our economy and transportation networks.”

An analysis completed by the CIC of the DOT’s capital plan determined the funding falls far short to adequately pay for road and bridge improvements, particularly those in the Hudson Valley where roads, highways and bridges are crucial to transport people and goods.

Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-White Plains) said the historic Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act was a unique opportunity to rebuild the state.

“We must see to it that the funding is put to use in the most effective way possible to have the greatest impact on our communities,” Jones said.

Assemblyman Tom Abinanti (D-Pleasantville) said he got a flat tire on the way back from Albany, an increasingly common occurrence for motorists throughout the region.

“It was on a state road, a big pothole that I didn’t see,” Abinanti said. “That is a personal impact of this decline. New Yorkers everywhere are suffering repair costs every year because of road damage.”

An independent poll commissioned by Rebuild New York Now showed 66 percent of respondents said the state spends too little on transportation infrastructure. More than 73 percent favor increased state funding for road and bridge repairs.

A report issued by the Associated General Contractors of New York State, presented last month at a joint legislative budget hearing on transportation in Albany, stated that from 2016 to 2020 fair and poor pavement increased from 36 percent of the system to 45 percent, representing an additional 3,277 lane miles. That would amount to 17,461 lane miles of the state’s roads that are in need of repair. The organization claims that for years, DOT’s capital plan has been underfunded with devastating impact on New York’s roads.

Around 40 laborers and construction workers attended last Monday’s rally, most of whom are currently out of work. Members of the Heavy Construction Laborers Local Union 60, including Minerva and Alex Lubi of Cortlandt, were bused in. Minerva Lubi has been a flagger on road construction for four years.

“Road work is nasty,” she said. “I’m not working right now because it’s been slow. We are hoping that will change in two or three weeks.”

Her husband, Alex, has worked in construction for eight years.

“Work in general was terrible this year and March is usually a slow month,” he said.

State Sen. Shelley Mayer (D-Yonkers) said the state has the money to match the $5 million of extra federal money and thanked the workers who participated in the rally.

“You are the men and women who actually do the work,” Mayer said. “This is the moment to make sure this gets done.”

Wayne Heller, president of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 137, said he hoped the state would support increasing funds for infrastructure repair.

“Something needs to be done about the potholes that destroy vehicles,” Heller said. “This meeting is important to have our voices and opinions heard. We hope our message reaches the politicians’ ears in Albany to accomplish what needs to be done.”


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