U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) announced a new measure that will give states the authority to use more federal funds on local bridge improvement projects. Gillibrand’s proposal will make local bridge projects eligible for federal funding through the National Highway Performance Program, allowing states greater flexibility to invest in bridge improvement and repair projects. Senator Gillibrand will introduce the measure as an amendment to the transportation reauthorization bill currently before the Environmental and Public Works Committee, of which she is a member.
In 2012, a program that provided direct funding to states and local governments to invest in bridge construction and repair was eliminated as a part of a larger transportation funding bill. Senator Gillibrand’s amendment would redirect existing dollars to restore bridge funding and ensure that local governments have the flexibility to determine which projects receive investment.
In Gillibrand's home state of New York more than one-third of New York State’s 17,000 bridges are in need of repair, with 2,016 graded as structurally deficient and 4,735 graded as functionally obsolete, according to the New York State Department of Transportation.
These designations do not imply that the bridges are unsafe, but rather that they can no longer handle the traffic for which they were designed or are in need of extensive rehabilitation. In order to remain in service, structurally deficient bridges are often posted with weight limits.
In Western New York, there are a total of 2,743 bridges and of these, 229 are structurally deficient bridges and 465 are functionally obsolete bridges.
“As hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers get ready to take to the roads for summer vacations, more than a third of our state’s bridges are in need of repair but bureaucratic federal policy actually prevents our local governments from investing in their repair,” said Senator Gillibrand. “My amendment will finally give states the flexibility to spend federal transportation dollars where they’re needed most, including thousands of locally-owned bridges across the state. This is among my priorities for the federal transportation spending bill we’ll pass this year, and I will continue to fight to ensure that New York receives the resources it needs to maintain and improve our critical infrastructure.”