first_imgOf that, locally owned bridges alone require $27.4 billion – a steep bill for counties and cities, even with state and federal assistance. Given these numbers, bridge maintenance is tempting to put off if you want to keep taxes and spending low. But that’s not fiscal responsibility — that’s negligence. Putting off already overdue maintenance simply guarantees greater expense and hassle down the road, perhaps at an unplanned and highly inconvenient time.The general condition of New York’s bridges has improved very marginally in recent years, but it’s not happening fast enough.Our share of structurally deficient bridges puts us two points behind the national average of 9 percent – and at 17th among all states. Something has to change.Our instinct is to treat maintenance as an expense, but it’s really an opportunity. Repairing bridges means hiring construction workers and placing orders for materials. This stimulates the economy over the short term. If we don’t, counties may need to raise property taxes, which puts undue financial burden on property owners instead of high-income earners.What’s more, New York should lobby the federal government to make repairing our infrastructure a priority.Even President Trump has expressed willingness to move on infrastructure revitalization. Perhaps this is an area where Democrats and Republicans can find common ground.Ultimately, though, our bridges are more than just hunks of metal we drive over. And their maintenance is about more than budgeting. It should be a matter of state pride that we have well-kept public works projects like bridges. If we let the most visible parts of our infrastructure balance on the border of function and disrepair, what does that say about how we view our home? What does settling for substandard infrastructure say about what we feel we deserve as New Yorkers?We live in the greatest state in the country and a global economic powerhouse. We should drive on bridges that are more than “good enough.”Steve Keller is a regular contributor to the Sunday Opinion section.More from The Daily Gazette:Foss: Should main downtown branch of the Schenectady County Public Library reopen?EDITORIAL: Thruway tax unfair to working motoristsEDITORIAL: Beware of voter intimidationEDITORIAL: Find a way to get family members into nursing homesEDITORIAL: Urgent: Today is the last day to complete the census Functionally obsolete bridges “fail to meet current design standards for the amount of traffic carried.”Examples of obsolescence include “inadequate lane or shoulder widths, low clearances or low load-carrying capacity.” In Schenectady County, the numbers are worse than average: Of 116 bridges, 13 are structurally deficient (11.2 percent) and 40 are functionally obsolete (34.5 percent). Rensselaer County fares slightly better (10.9 and 18.9 percent), while Albany County’s bridges are among the best in the state (5.0 and 33.2 percent).The average age of bridges in New York is 48.2 years, placing their construction in the late 1960s. In Schenectady, the average bridge age is 39.4 years. Now, the age and condition of these bridges doesn’t mean they’re all about to collapse. If the authorities determine a bridge is unsafe, it is closed.But we shouldn’t let it get to that point in the first place, as we did with 91 bridges last year.The problem, of course, is money. The estimated cost to fix all of these bridges is $75.4 billion. Categories: Editorial, OpinionWould you cross a “structurally deficient” bridge?Actually, you probably do every day.On Tuesday, the state comptroller issued a report on New York state’s 17,462 bridges, about half of which are owned by local governments.The news isn’t pleasant: 1,928 of our bridges are structurally deficient (11.0 percent) and 4,531 (25.9 percent) are functionally obsolete. What do these terms mean?According to the comptroller, structurally deficient bridges are technically safe, but “have load-bearing elements in poor condition or are prone to repeated flooding.” And after construction work ends, communities see lasting benefit. When travel is easy, it means smooth functioning of private enterprise — which means economic growth and increased employment.It’s no wonder economists agree that infrastructure work is among the most effective forms of public spending.By contrast, if infrastructure is falling apart, it takes a toll.For example, if bridges can’t support heavy weights, it forces traffic reroutes. Or when crossings don’t have enough lanes for today’s rush hours, they become choke points that can freeze entire communities.When roadways have to close unexpectedly, supply chains are delayed and people can’t get to work on time.All of these inconveniences add up to a big problem, increasing the cost of doing business and dissuading firms from opening up shop in town. Infrastructure needs to be viewed as a state priority, not a responsibility of individual counties and towns.We don’t spend our lives in one town or county as our ancestors did. Schenectady’s bridges are regularly crossed by people from Troy and Albany and every single part of the state. We should collectively pitch in for their repair as a single state.last_img

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