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Burgess, Danielle, Tyler Keegan, Daniel Kuhlmann, Taru, and Max Weisbrod. (2014). "Chronic Underfunding for Transportation: New York State's Response to Local Infrastructure Needs." Creative Responses to Fiscal Stress Project, Dept. of City and Regional Planning, Cornell University.

There has been a trend in New York State of chronically underfunding local infrastructure. That State continues to invest in high-profile mega-projects like the Tappen Zee Bridge, while smaller projects across New York go unfunded. The result is a network of locally-owned infrastructure that is in an alarming state of disrepair. It is estimated that over the next 20 years, the State’s water infrastructure will require over 56.3 billion dollars in repairs. Furthermore, across the state over 34% of the bridges and 40% of State-owned highways are rated deficient. Despite this well-documented need, State and Federal grants for investment in local infrastructure have been in steady decline. At the same time, the State legislature has instituted a property tax cap which limits local governments’ ability to fund these investments themselves. All of this has placed local governments in a bind; they have increased need for infrastructure investments, but few viable options to pay for them.

In this report, we examine the current state of New York State’s local transportation infrastructure. In doing so, we document the trends both in need across the state and in the ways in which funding for the construction and maintenance of local infrastructure has declined. Our primary recommendation to help address local governments’ infrastructure needs is to increase state funding at the local level, possibly by rededicating the state’s highway trust fund to grants for infrastructure specific investments. We offer a critique of the plan to create a state infrastructure bank, as it is at best only a limited tool for local governments. Finally, we find reasons for optimism in the effective use of cross-sectoral collaboration, like the Save the Rain project in Syracuse, to more efficiently address the infrastructure needs of financially constrained municipalities.

The presentation of this report presented at the State Austerity Policy and Creative Local Response (2014) conference is available. Additionally, an executive summary is also available.

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