Transportation leaders and elected officials from Long Island Thursday urged the state to hold off on approving $26 billion in infrastructure spending for the MTA until it comes up with a similar plan to fund road and bridge projects, including in Nassau and Suffolk.
Accompanied by a pair of bloodhound puppies recruited to help "sniff out" the missing infrastructure dollars in Albany, Long Island Contractors Association executive director Marc Herbst led a news conference at the 110 Sand Company Mine in Melville demanding a long-term capital budget for the state Department of Transportation.
"No one has a plan to fund transportation," Herbst said. "The money is now there. So we have decided all we can do is have a search-and-rescue mission."
The DOT has been without such a plan since 2009, even though the state has since then made long-term infrastructure funding commitments to the MTA. Last month Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo reached a deal with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to help fund the MTA's proposed $26.1 billion 2015-19 capital program, including through $8.3 billion in state aid.
The MTA has not yet submitted the plan to the state-empaneled Capital Program Review Board for final approval. But Herbst and other speakers said the state should reject the plan "not to penalize the MTA, but to have recognition that the needs are there for both sides . . . and to make sure the entire transportation system is funded adequately."
State officials have indicated that they have been waiting for the federal government to pass its own long-term highway bill. It, too, has been funding transportation projects through short-term extensions for the past six years. But a six-year federal transportation bill is expected shortly now that Congress and the Senate have passed similar versions of a $325 billion plan.
Herbst said a state DOT capital budget is essential to moving forward with much-needed road and bridge projects on Long Island, including the completion of the Route 347 reconstruction in Suffolk and meaningful improvements to north-south corridors, including the Sagtikos Parkway.
Among the elected officials who spoke in support of a state transportation plan were state Sens. Jack Martins (R-Mineola) and Michael Venditto (R-Massapequa), Babylon Supervisor Rich Schaeffer and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, who spoke of Long Island's potential to be an economic engine for the state.
"But that potential can only be unlocked if we are investing in our infrastructure," Bellone said.