You Paid For It: Money for upstate roads, bridges going to NYC
A 13WHAM News investigation has found mass transit in New York City is now receiving funds that used to be spent on roads and bridges in the Rochester and surrounding areas.
This comes as a transportation research group estimates that a third of our roads and bridges need repair or outright replacement.
"It's hard enough to maintain what we've got," said Leicester Highway Superintendent Russell Page. "We're falling further and further behind."
At one time the funding formula was simple: One dollar for upstate, one dollar for downstate. But New York has quietly moved away from equal funding known as parity.
We're paying for it with tax dollars, car repairs, and even risks to your safety.
"People think they're driving on roads that are as safe as they can be but that's not the case," said Rocky Moretti of the Transportation Research Group.
A stop at a Henrietta auto shop reveals one way that costs drivers. Mechanic George Mazor showed off a suspension system snapped in two by repeated contact with potholes.
"This is on the front of the car. It suspends the car over bumps," Mazor told 13WHAM's Jane Flasch. "Over time, fatigue from potholes just breaks the spring."
Mazor said our cars are aging before their time. Even without a major repair, bad roads cost drivers $315 in vehicle depreciation every year.
"The springs broke because of the potholes," said Carl Davies, who owns the car. "They really shouldn't break in the time I had the car."
He's now facing a $1,300 repair bill. He's not alone.
"AAA responded to 200,000 flat tire calls in New York last year," said AAA spokeswoman Elizabeth Carey. "That's a flat tire every two minutes and 37 seconds of the winter season."
Twenty nine percent of all roads in the Rochester region are in need of repairs. One-third of Monroe County's bridges are even worse, rated as structurally deficient or obsolete.
"Rarely do you look up under the bottom of the bridge," said Gates Highway Superintendent Joe Amico.
Nearly 70,000 cars travel Rt. 390 in Gates every day using 45-year-old bridges that are braced with wood. This summer, loose concrete pieces from the Trolley Blvd. bridge fell on highway workers.
"I never expected big hunks of concrete to be that loose on the bridge underneath," said Amico.
A 2014 inspection report obtained by 13WHAM News documents 88 pages of defects and warns a 50-square-foot chunk of concrete could fall onto traffic below. But it remains open; there is no money for reconstruction.
"That is a risk to the publc and families in those vehicles and that is not something that is going to go away," said Gates Town Supervisor Mark Assini.
The Department of Transportation funds road and bridge repairs outside of New York City. For decades, it was funded on a five-year cycle and given a budget equal to the Transit Authority downstate. In 2010, both went away.
Rebuild New York estimates roads and bridges have been cheated out of $5.2 billion since 2010. 13WHAM News filed a Freedom of Information request to confirm that gap.
That request was acknowledged by the state in August 2015, but so far it has gone unanswered.
"Upstate is getting the short end of the stick," said Assini, who also sits on a road and bridge commission.
Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) now proposes spending $22 billion for upstate transportation construction including roads and bridges. Yet New York City is set to get billions more. Critics say the gap between upstate and downstate funding will grow by another $4 billion.
By the NYSDOT's own estimate, if the funding gap to date was eliminated and we were returned out fair share, it would be enough money to fix the Trolley Blvd bridge and 100 others.