Washington, DC - July 9, 2014 - Today, on a conference call with reporters, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer pushed for a long-term solution to replenish the Highway Trust Fund, which provides over $1.6 billion per year to New York State for highway and mass transit construction projects and is set to expire later this year. If no agreement is reached to continue funding the Highway Trust Fund, New York State could potentially be forced to delay construction projects or choose to foot the bill with local tax dollars. Schumer urged his colleagues in Congress to come up with a long-term solution that prevents New York State from having to make these difficult decisions and keeps construction projects on schedule. Schumer said that a failure to re-authorize the Highway Trust Fund would significantly hurt the economy and could impact the long-term safety of our infrastructure.
“The Highway Trust Fund is too important to New York’s economy, and to our safety, to let it become insolvent,” said Schumer. “Congress should step up and reach a bi-partisan agreement that continues to provide the funding New York needs to carry out local highway and mass transit construction projects. New York should not have to decide between delaying these construction projects and footing the bill for them without any guarantee they will be reimbursed. Any cut-back in funding could be a dagger to the heart of our economy, and I will fight hard to make sure we avoid this at all costs.”
The Highway Trust Fund is a significant source of federal money that is allocated to states to help fund highway and mass transit construction projects. As long as the fund stays above a certain level, states like New York receive federal funding in the form of a reimbursement for work already undertaken. There is a looming shortfall, however, that could limit these federal reimbursements and eventually stop them altogether.
According to the federal Department of Transportation (DOT), the amount of money allocated for highway spending within the federal Highway Trust Fund will fall below $4 billion at the beginning of next month, which is the point at which the DOT will begin scaling back payments to New York State and other states for highway construction projects. Schumer explained that, if no agreement is reached to continue funding the Highway Trust Fund, New York State could be forced to put construction projects that are already underway on hold and delay some that are in the planning stages. In addition, according to the White House, if Congress does not act, new federal disbursements to states from the Highway Trust Fund will be halted after September 30th.
If the highway funding allocation within the Highway Trust Fund falls below $4 billion – and payments to New York State begin to decrease as a result – or if disbursements are stopped altogether, New York State will be forced to either foot the bill for highway construction projects with local tax dollars, without any guarantee of reimbursement, or put many projects on hiatus until a solution can be reached. Schumer noted that construction delays, particularly during summer construction season, could have a disastrous impact on jobs throughout the state. According to the Center for American Progress, if necessary funding is not authorized for the Highway Trust Fund in FY2015, New York could lose over 12,400 jobs, including many good-paying construction jobs. In addition, Schumer noted that New York State has nearly 7,000 bridges that are either functionally obsolete or structurally deficient and, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers, 60% of New York’s roads are in mediocre or poor condition, so any interruption in funding is also a safety concern.
Schumer said the funding provided to New York State through the Highway Trust Fund is too important to the state’s economy and to highway safety for Congress to let the Highway Trust Fund become insolvent. Therefore, Schumer is urging his colleagues in the Senate to reach a bipartisan solution that will keep the Highway Trust Fund solvent at least until December when a long-term funding solution can be reached.
According to the DOT, if the Highway Trust Fund is not properly funded, it could mean the delay of about 112,000 roadway projects and 6,000 transit projects nationwide. In the case of New York, which receives over $1.6 billion annually from the Highway Trust Fund, there are approximately 409 highway projects currently underway in Upstate New York and Long Island with the help of the Highway Trust Fund that could be delayed or even abandoned if Congress does not reach an agreement. Below is the number of these projects currently underway in each region of New York State, along with the total cost of the work:
- In the Capital Region, there are 41 highway projects under construction worth a total of $453 million.
- In the Rochester-Finger Lakes Region, there are 44highway projects under construction worth over $93 million.
- In the Southern Tier, there are 78 highway projects under construction worth over $111 million.
- In Western New York, there are 45 highway projects under construction worth over $193 million.
- In Central New York, there are 53 highway projects under construction worth over $151 million.
- In the Hudson Valley, there are 63 highway projects under construction worth over $321 million.
- In the North Country, there are 43 highway projects under construction worth over $100 million.
- In the Long Island, there are 42 highway projects under construction worth over $318 million.
Schumer noted that some of these projects cross county and regional lines. The Highway Trust Fund also provides funding to states to expand and improve their public transit systems, and that account is expected to drop below $1 billion by the end of October, the point at which DOT will need to begin scaling back payments to New York State. Schumer said that even though funding for mass transit will take longer to reach the threshold where funds will stop being available for New York State, it is imperative that Congress reach an agreement to resolve the Highway Trust Fund shortfall so that there is no doubt in October around whether various mass transit construction projects can continue without interruption.