by Rick Miller, Olean Times Herald
U.S. Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, and U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said the $305 billion transportation bill approved Thursday contains more than $16 billion in funding for New York’s highways and bridges.
President Obama signed the bill Friday.
Reed has cited the transportation bill as a possible funding source for construction of the Route 219 Expressway through Cattaraugus County.
Schumer said the Fix America’s Surface Transportation Act will boost upstate infrastructure spending by 16.5 percent from previous years.
Reed fought for local needs for roads and bridges by working with Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Schuster of Pennsylvania for final passage of the highway spending plan.
“I care about making sure we invest in our local roads and bridges,” Reed said in a press statement.
“Quality highway systems ensure that the jobs of today and tomorrow stay right here in our backyards. It’s only right that the House came together to pass a bill that does so much good for our economy and helps keep people safe. It’s a win‑win.”
Reed and Schumer fought for a provision in the bill for a $4.5 billion Nationally Significant Freight and Highway Projects Program.
Under this new program, major projects throughout New York will be able to compete for funding to address important transportation priorities. That would include Route 219.
This grant program will help projects that are too big to get off the ground due to a lack of traditional funding take shape, Schumer said. The new program also has a large rural set‑aside that will help ensure projects in all regions of the state are able to compete for dollars.
Continental 1, the Buffalo-based lobbying group advocating for construction of the Route 219 Expressway in New York and Pennsylvania, called passage of the bill “tremendous news for the initiative to complete Route 219 in New York and Pennsylvania.”
In a press statement, Continental 1 Executive Director Meg Lauerman said, “For years, a roadblock to moving forward on critical portions of Route 219 was the lack of a long-term federal funding mechanism for capital projects. Now, we have it.
“We offer special thanks to Congressmen Bill Shuster and Tom Reed, who worked to ensure that the Nationally Significant Freight and Highway Projects program was a key part of the discussion and final bill, and look forward to learning more about how the Continental 1 corridor can compete for those dollars.”
Schumer said the deal will ensure local transit agencies can continue as lifelines for upstate New York.
“(They can) help us repair our bridges in a time where New York’s infrastructure is crumbling and desperately in need of an upgrade,” he said.
Reed said the proposal includes specific funds for roads and bridges in rural areas, public transit systems and new systems for the movement of commercial traffic.
“(It) will ultimately make it easier for companies to move products to the marketplace and drive costs down for consumers,” he said. “It has been a long journey to get this bill across the finish line, but it will be worthwhile once we start getting many of the much-needed projects underway. The benefits of this bill will be felt around the country with better roads and lower costs across the board now and in the future. And we did it without raising gas taxes, something I remain opposed to doing.”