For immediate release: February 17, 2009
Contact Information: Kate Slevin, Veronica Vanterpool
Tri-State Transportation Campaign
P: 212-268-7474
C: 917-833-9259

New York Economic Recovery Now in Hands of Governor, NYSDOT, MPOs

Tri-State Transportation Campaign Urges State Officials to Focus on “Fix it First” & Transit Projects

New York , NY — As President Obama signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign called on state and local officials to ensure that the transportation portion revitalizes New York’s economy, focusing on job creation by rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure and investing in much needed public transit.

During a town hall meeting last Wednesday in Ft. Myers, FL President Obama took an unequivocal stand in favor of a 21st Century transportation system including energy efficient investments such as high speed rail and public transit. Said President Obama: “Even when you’re in the middle of crisis, you’ve got to keep your eye on the future…The days where we’re just building sprawl forever, those days are over.”

“These funds offer state and local officials an unprecedented opportunity to create jobs that will build the strong communities the people of New York want to live in," said Kate Slevin, executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a policy watchdog organization. “We’re calling on Governor Paterson, New York State DOT Commissioner Astrid Glynn, head of New York State Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Cabinet Tim Gilchrist, and Metropolitan Planning Organization leaders to heed President Obama’s vision for change and urging them to spend these investments wisely.”

The bill signed today includes about $46 billion for transportation, including roughly $2.3 billion for New York to invest in public transit, roads, and bicycle and pedestrian investments. (State shares of intercity and high speed rail funding in the new law have yet to be determined.) New York will receive the funds through programs that allow states broad discretion.

“At this point, it is up to Governor Paterson to use this money to make our communities stronger,” noted Veronica Vanterpool, associate director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign.

Key points of the legislation are listed below:

  • $27.5 billion is allocated to the Surface Transportation Program (STP) that, as its name states, can be spent on the state’s most pressing surface transportation needs. New York ’s $1.1 billion in STP funds could begin to restore our transportation networks to a state of good repair if state and local officials give priority to fix-it-first rather than unneeded new highways that encourage more congestion and oil dependence.
  • Flexibility built into STP funds allows New York to invest in transit, road, rail, and bicycle and pedestrian projects that reduce oil dependence, traffic congestion, and vulnerability to gas price hikes.
  • Just under 30% of STP funds will be directed (“suballocated”) to metropolitan decision makers, who will have the flexibility to use the money to meet the diverse transportation needs of their constituents while helping to foster the clean energy economy envisioned by the President.
  • A substantial percentage of funding is explicitly dedicated to public transportation, to help meet growing demand. New York’s share of the $8.4 billion will be $1.2 billion.

Tri-State Transportation Campaign recognized that Congress provided no criteria to ensure that STP funds are prioritized towards fixing New York’s crumbling infrastructure and expanding public transit and bicycle and pedestrian routes. As a result, decisions about the kinds of jobs to create and projects to fund with federal stimulus funds are in the hands of state and local officials. Tri-State Transportation Campaign urged these officials to use that flexibility to create the jobs that will both repair the system we have, and build a transportation system in New York that meets the needs of an energy-efficient 21st Century economy.

“Not all stimulus jobs are created equal,” stated Slevin. “State and local officials need to choose the projects that not only stimulate the economy now, but also fix our infrastructure, reduce our reliance on oil, and build a robust economy for decades to come.”

The group emphasized that using stimulus dollars for needed projects like the East Side Access tunnel between New York City and Long Island, improvements to the Albany-area rail network, and maintaining the Tappan Zee Bridge would be a better investment than projects to widen or extend roadways.

“We must seize this moment, rebuild New York for our children and grandchildren, and put our communities on a clean-energy, high-speed track to the future,” added Vanterpool.

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The Tri-State Transportation Campaign is a non-profit advocacy and policy organization working for a more balanced, transit-friendly and equitable transportation network in downstate New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. www.tstc.org