Washington, D.C. – Over the past six months, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has hosted economic development roundtables across New York State – meeting with local elected officials, community and business leaders to discuss how to grow local economies. One of the top priorities in every corner of the state is the need for long term investments in traditional and 21st century infrastructure. To help ensure long term economic development, Senator Gillibrand today unveiled her comprehensive plan to invest in New York infrastructure – including priority transportation projects across New York State, new legislation to improve federal financing for future transportation projects, and plans to expand access to broadband funding for underserved areas and rural communities implementing health information technology.
“America needs a long term strategy for investment in broadband, health care IT and traditional infrastructure like roads and bridges,” Senator Gillibrand said. “Here in New York we have aging roads and bridges, and lack of new infrastructure is holding back our economic growth. It is vital that we connect rural families and businesses to the rest of the world with high-speed Internet, reduce costs and save lives through health IT, and make critical upgrades to transportation systems across New York.”
While state and local governments are continually working to upgrade infrastructure, over the past eight years federal funding was slashed and communities were forced to spend their dollars on basic maintenance. For example, based upon data submitted to the Federal Highway Administration in April 2008, about 12 percent of the highway bridges in New York State are classified as structurally deficient and about 25 percent are classified as functionally obsolete.
The Economic Recovery Plan that passed earlier this year was an important first step to address some the county’s most pressing infrastructure needs. However, Senator Gillibrand believes the country needs a long term vision for investments in roads, bridges, and non-traditional forms of infrastructure.
Senator Gillibrand’s plan would make immediate upgrades to New York’s transportation infrastructure, provide long term funding mechanisms for roads and bridges, and drive investment in new forms of infrastructure by expanding broadband access and implementing health IT.
1. Priority Infrastructure Projects. Currently, the Senate is working on an 18 month extension of the Transportation Reauthorization Bill. However, the House of Representatives is moving forward with a six-year bill, including major priority projects for every region of the country.
As this bill moves through Congress, New York has a major opportunity to secure millions of dollars for critical road projects.
After meeting with community leaders in every region of the state, Senator Gillibrand has been able to identify which projects in every region of the state are the highest priority. She’s using her seat on the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee to fight for these projects. As the Authorization Bill moves through Congress, she will make New York’s top priorities clear.
As a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Senator Gillibrand requested funding for 61 transportation priority projects across New York State, including:
- $291,020,000 to construct a new, 9-lane bridge, to replace the existing 6-lane Kosciuszko Bridge to improve safety and operation through this section of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE). This project would replace the existing bridge by building a new permanent parallel bridge on the Eastbound (Queens-bound) side of the existing bridge. The new bridge would carry five lanes of eastbound traffic and four lanes of westbound traffic and have standard widths and shoulders. The new bridge would be built at a lower elevation to allow for reduced grades. The project limits are from Morgan Ave in Brooklyn to LIE Interchange in Queens. The BQE is a vital link in the interstate system and the NYC arterial network. The BQE is an integral part of the regional transportation plan for maintaining mobility in the area. The Kosciuszko Bridge provides access to major employment sites and complements the regional roadway network, including the LIE and Gowanus Expressway.
- $41 million for the Nassau HUB – Centre Mass Transit Project. The Nassau Hub – Centre Mass Transit project would integrate state-of-the-art public transportation systems with vital commercial, recreational, and residential development using Bus Rapid Transit, Light Rail and Automated Guideway Transit. The HUB would operate a core route connecting the communities of Mineola, Garden City, Hempstead and the Nassau hub commercial center.
- $137.6 million to Design and Construct a 3rd Main Track for High Speed Rail. This project includes wayside signals between existing controlled sidings on the Empire West Corridor in New York State. The completion of a third main track dedicated to passenger service would have significant impacts on train performance and improved freight traffic fluidity. This would enable high speed rail connections from New York City to Buffalo and on to the Midwest and Toronto.
READ Senator Gillibrand’s full list of Priority Transportation Projects for New York.
2. Improve Transportation Infrastructure Project Financing. Senator Gillibrand is working with Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) on legislation that would establish a new method for the federal government to finance infrastructure projects more effectively with public and private capital. The National Infrastructure Bank Act would establish an independent government entity – the National Infrastructure Bank – to evaluate and finance infrastructure projects, including roads, bridges, mass transit, drinking water systems and wastewater systems. Initially, the bank would be able to issue bonds up to $60 billion. The legislation would help fast-track transportation projects, improve public safety, create new jobs and grow local economies.
3. Expand Broadband Access to Rural New York. Senator Gillibrand will introduce the Rural Broadband Initiative Act – legislation that would create a one-stop-shop in the federal government to acquire funding for broadband. The Office of Rural Broadband Initiatives would be part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and would steer grants and loans to expand broadband access to underserved rural areas – streamlining a currently sluggish and scattered process to deliver high-speed Internet to businesses and families currently cut off.
The Rural Broadband Initiative Act would require the newly created Undersecretary for Rural Broadband Initiatives to streamline and improve the broadband grant programs, as well as develop a comprehensive rural broadband strategy to connect all of rural America to high-speed Internet.
Less than one-third of rural Americans have access to broadband, including large portions of Upstate New York – cutting families off from critical services and cutting businesses off from new markets. Connecting rural areas with broadband access is also the first step to implementing health care IT in rural areas.
4. Implement Health IT. The Economic Recovery plan that Senator Gillibrand helped pass included approximately $20 billion for health care IT. But the federal government is still determining the regulatory process with which that money will be allocated. In the meantime, Senator Gillibrand is pursuing efforts to make sure rural areas in New York are in a strong position to access those federal resources. She is requesting that a portion of the broadband funding be set aside to help health care IT projects in rural areas.