Congresswoman Slaughter asks for federal funding to fix deteriorating bridges

Updated: 09/03/2014 5:40 PM
Created: 09/03/2014 12:12 PM WHEC.com

More money to improve bridge safety -- that's what Congresswoman Louise Slaughter says is needed. She wants more of your federal tax money to be put toward improvements on crossings around our area.

One of the deficient bridges she's talking about is one News10NBC brought to your attention before. It's a public safety concern in Bushnell’s Basin because fire and emergency vehicles can't cross over due to its structural condition. Today, Congresswoman Slaughter used that bridge as a backdrop to call for more funding to fix our crumbling infrastructure.

Slaughter said, “There's a problem here. There's a critical problem here in the United States…all over the country from one end to the other." With about one out of three bridges in need of important maintenance or repairs in New York State, Slaughter today called for more federal investment for infrastructure.

She got a look at the canal bridge in Bushnell’s Basin. Built in 1912, the Marsh Road bridge is considered structurally deficient, so much so that the state Department of Transportation has posted a weight limit of eight tons which means fire trucks are off limits. The fire chief here says that could have an impact on saving lives. Bushnell's Basin Fire Chief Greg Gulick said, "We, at this point, have a significant delay to get to an emergency on the other side of Marsh Rd bridge. We actually have to go around a several mile detour through another fire district to get into our district itself."

Slaughter has co-sponsored legislation she says would save taxpayers $19-billion by outlawing corporate inversions, money she says would then go to pay for road and bridge repairs. But as we reported in May, the state also has a dedicated Highway and Bridge Trust Fund. The money comes from your gas taxes, vehicle licensing fees and car rental taxes. But according to a report by the state comptroller, only about a quarter of the $3.8-billion in the fund is actually being spent on capital construction. The majority has been diverted to pay off old debts and cover day to day operational expenses.

Brett Davidsen: “Couldn't a lot of this problem be mitigated if the state spent the money the way it said it was going to spend it?”
Congresswoman Slaughter: "You'd be better asking that question to one of the state legislators."

But Mark Assini, who wants to unseat Slaughter this November, says pressure from the federal government is necessary. “Our local delegation in Congress should make absolutely sure that our governor is spending the money we're giving at the federal level properly and the fact that it is going to debt service and operating expenses - only a fraction of it goes to roads and bridges - is an absolute sin."

As for the Marsh Road bridge project, the DOT sys the bridge is scheduled for repairs in about a year and a half. In the meantime, firefighters will have to continue to use the detour and keep their fingers crossed that those lost minutes don't result in a tragedy. 

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