Following a lobbying effort in Albany last week, Shelter Island Highway Superintendent Jay Card Jr. was optimistic about the amount of money the town could receive for road improvements in the next state budget.
Mr. Card and his fellow highway superintendents met legislators last week during their New York State County Highway Superintendents Association “Local Roads Matter!” event. The elected fficals appeared ready to put Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposed budget for infrastructure “back on the right track,” Mr. Card said.
While local roads account for 87 percent of New York State roads and more than half of the state’s bridges, the state has been spending less than 5 percent of its capital construction program supporting the local system.
The lobbyists were asking that the Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS) money be increased by $150 million and that the “BRIDGE NY” funding be increased by $50 million for local municipalities.
They want a commitment to continue annual funding of a $100 million “PAVE NY” program.
The governor’s budget proposal calls for increasing the Department of Transportation’s capital program by $1.16 billion, but three quarters of the money, or $885 million, would go to three projects in New York City.
That’s where there’s a larger concentration of voters, Mr. Card said. There was a lot of speculation among the highway superintendents about whether this might be Mr. Cuomo’s effort to curry favor with voters in the city should he launch a 2020 presidential run.
The total federal and state support for local roads and bridges would amount to 5 percent of spending compared with 95 percent going to other infrastructure projects, Mr. Card said.
“Motorists aren’t receiving their fair share,” he said.
What gives him hope is that in past years, Senator Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) and Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. (I-Sag Harbor) have delivered for the Island, he said. “They understand that’s the only way that Shelter Island has a glimmer of hope of getting its fair share,” Mr. Card said. “We’re always in catch up mode trying to make up for past deficiencies. The town needs to be spending $400,000 each year just to keep up.”
This year, the Highway Department secured more money from town taxpayers than it has received in recent years, he acknowledged. That’s because the Town Board voted to take some money from its “A Class” account to use for highway work with the understanding that grant money owed the town will replenish that account when it arrives.