'Functionally obsolete' bridges concern Sen. Griffo, says only 22 percent of motorist taxes fund construction projects
Friday, February 7, 2014 - 6:02 am

State Sen. Joe Griffo (R-Rome) says he is concerned about reports that 12 percent of highway bridges in New York are classified as structurally deficient, and 27 percent are classified as functionally obsolete.

At the same time, Griffo says only 22 percent of motorist taxes go toward construction projects, according to a report from the comptroller’s office.

Griffo represents the 47th Senate District, which includes Massena, Brasher, Norfolk, Stockholm, Potsdam, Pierrepont, Russell, Clifton, Fine and Pitcairn plus Lewis and Oneida counties.

While the classifications don’t mean the bridges are unsafe for motorists, Griffo said they spotlight bridges in need of maintenance, repair, rehab or replacement.

“Motorists paid $3.8 billion last year in state taxes and fees on travel-related items such as gas, vehicle licensing and rental cars. That money is supposed to go toward making bridges and highways safer,” Griffo said. “Instead, the money is being taken to pay for past borrowing as well as operating costs of state agencies – at the expense of our infrastructure.”

A comptroller’s report, released today, said four out of every 10 dollars the fund received last year was siphoned off to pay for recurring costs, such as snow and ice removal by state Department of Transportation employees and Department of Motor Vehicles staff.

Comptroller DiNapoli also found that the state, since it created the fund in 1991, has used just 30.6 percent of fund – or about $14.5 billion – on actual capital improvement projects.

"We need legislation that will protect taxpayers’ money and make sure it goes where it should,” said Sen. Griffo. “That’s why I’ve supported legislation that phases out the sweeps from the highway and bridge fund and prohibits it from being robbed again in the future.”

The Bridge and Road Investment and Dedicated Fund Guaranteed Enforcement (BRIDGE) Reform Act, which has passed the Senate twice previously, would ensure that the funds collected through motorist taxes and fees would be spent on rebuilding, replacing and reconditioning highways and bridges, with a focus on safety improvements.