ALBANY, N.Y. (WIVB) – A report issued by New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s office Friday raises a question about how increasing resources for roads owned by local governments should be used.
The report notes this year, the state increased its Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program funding from $438 million to $538 million. Other sources for local road funding increased as well. And the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is expected to pump $13.5 billion into New York State, some of which should be used by local governments – cities, towns, villages, and counties.
But DiNapoli’s report questions how decisions will be made regarding the funding.
“(T)he lack of comprehensive, regularly updated data on local road conditions makes it impossible to determine what level of local spending would be sufficient to maintain roads in safe and adequate condition,” the report says. “This also means that local governments’ need for additional support at the State or federal level cannot be estimated with sufficient accuracy.”
“The State should offer resources and assistance to help local governments develop and maintain this data to help ensure the most effective targeting of funds available for maintenance and improvement of locally owned roads,” the report suggests. “Maximizing the return on available infrastructure resources would improve the ability of local governments to keep their roads in good operating condition, promote safe travel, facilitate vibrant commercial activity, and better meet the needs of their residents.”
Data is something some local governments in Western New York do collect, to some extent. William Geary, the Erie County Department of Public Works Commissioner, says they score their roads every two years.
“Our grading system of our roads, our 1200-plus centerline miles of road,” Geary said, “our score has gone up.
“But I wouldn’t pop the corks yet. We’re at our highest score – 7.2 right now. But still, I think (Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz) has mentioned this in a few of his briefings – 72 is basely passing if you’re in high school.”
Patrick Lucey has about 1,300 roads under his supervision as the highway superintendent in the Town of Amherst.
“One of the biggest factors are complaints from citizens,” he said. “The people who live there.”
“We act on complaints. And then we look for depressions in the road,” Lucey added. “Are drainage lines rotting and sinking, causing depressions? Is the curbing okay? Does it need some repairs here and there? Then obviously, the condition of the asphalt.”
Chris Horvatits is an award-winning reporter who joined the News 4 team in December 2017. See more of his work here.