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Officials Address Impact Of Transportation Bill

Jeanette Lenoir, WIBX

Oriskany, NY (WIBX) - Calling it a great day for New York, local, state and federal officials gathered in front of the County’s Department of Public Works Garage in Oriskany, to praise last week’s passage of the Transportation bill. Congressman Richard Hanna, who played a key role negotiating its passage, called it “Americas middle class jobs bill.” Hanna says H.R. 4348 is more than a transportation bill.  ”This will help the carpenters union, the laborers union and the operating engineers union, the steel workers union, this is America’s jobs bill. It will provide thousands of jobs all across this country and in particular, 3.3 billion dollars to New York State. This bill provides stable funding for 27-months,” he said.

Some of the highlights in the bill  include the Transportation Infrastructure Innovative Loan Account, (TIFIA), which was maintained and will allow the state to borrow money to improve its aging bridges, in particular the Tappan Zee bridge. Hanna describes it as a loan guarantee program. “It will allow the governor to borrow the money he needs to build that bridge,” he said.

Another substantial part of the bill is the lack of earmarks. Hanna says it would have been a lot easier to pass with earmarks. “This helps upstate New York because so much of the large earmarks, so many of them went downstate. Now the pool may be close to the same but the money that could flow upstate should be larger and we’re hopeful of that,” he said.

Streamlining construction projects is another significant change in the bill. Hanna says the average large project, from conception to completion, takes about 15 years. “That is way too long, way beyond what the rest of the world requires. This bill will cut that time in half by streamlining and making environmental reviews concurrent instead of consecutive,” he said.

Also, giving smaller communities more say at the table, as metropolitan planning areas, was also hailed as a successful portion of the bill. Hanna says it was something he worked on personally. “Places like Oneonta, Norwich and Herkimer and Boonville, and everything in between in this district, will be able to be at the table, talk to our Commissioner McDonald and give an idea of what it is they want to see,” he said.

Department of Transportation Commissioner, Joan McDonald says the bill will bring stability to New York and to state’s across the country for transportation planning and project delivery. She adds that the bill restores the bus program for bus replacement and facility rehabilitation. “Which is critically important for upstate communities like Utica, Rome, Syracuse, all of which are seeing explosive growth in their bus programs.” She says the bill also compliments Cuomo’s NY Works Program.

State Senator Joseph Griffo sounded less upbeat about the bill, but says it’s a good start. “National government has a role to play. It needed to be continued and there needed to be a commitment to recognize that we have crumbling infrastructure and that transportation and its network is extremely important as we try to develop economically. So, this funding is not where is could have been or should have been, but it is good and it will help,” he said.

The bill provides $37.4 billion to the state’s highway program for FY2013 and $37.7 billion for FY2014. Also, $10.5 billion will go toward Federal Transit Administration programs for FY2013 and $10.7 billion in FY2014. The next steps will be determining where exactly the money will go in the state, and Griffo says it will be based on need and priority.

Jeanette Lenoir, WIBX

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