February 12, 2014
By Neal Tepel
Albany, NY – Money in the Highway and Bridge Trust Fund continues to be diverted by New York State for non-capital purposes, leaving critical highway and bridge projects without necessary funds for repair and upgrade. Many bridges are deteriorating and in need of immediate attention.
"Taxpayers have paid billions in taxes and fees into a fund that was created to keep our roads and bridges in good repair. Now, more than three-quarters of this money is siphoned off to pay for borrowing and operating costs of state agencies, leaving fewer dollars for improving our infrastructure,”DiNapoli said. “While the state is making progress with its capital planning, New York needs a reliable source for investment in its transportation infrastructure and should restore the use of this fund for capital purposes.”
Created in 1991, the fund was initially intended to provide dedicated funding to reconstruct, replace and preserve the state’s highways and bridges. Funding comes from dedicated taxes and fees. By 2002, debt payments had surpassed capital projects. Just 22.2 percent of its $3.8 billion were spent on capital construction in state fiscal year (SFY) 2012-13, according to DiNapoli’s report.
State operations costs now consume the
greatest share of the fund: nearly $1.6 billion in the last fiscal year, including the costs of snow and ice removal by the Department of Transportation and day-to-day staff expenses at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Staff expenses and snow and ice removal costs are regarded as ongoing costs of state operations and maintenance, not capital expenses.
The decline in cash support for New York’s highway and bridge repair program can lead to a disastrous conclusion and must be addressed by Governor Cuomo.