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U.S., state funds for transit projects drying up, leaders say

NYS DOT Commissioner Joan McDonald speaks as Long

NYS DOT Commissioner Joan McDonald speaks as Long Island elected and policy leaders join Long Island's heavy construction industry at a roundtable program that reviewed the region's transportation future hosted by LICA and held at the Fox Hollow Inn in Woodbury, Friday, March 14, 2014. Credit: Steve Pfost

The heads of New York's three largest transportation providers said Friday that Long Islanders should not expect the state or federal government to provide much more money for critical infrastructure investments.

At a meeting hosted by the Long Island Contractors Association, Department of Transportation Commissioner Joan McDonald, Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye and Metropolitan Transportation Authority chairman Thomas Prendergast all agreed that it was time to come up with new ways to fund transportation needs, including more public-private partnerships.

"Whatever funding models we've used over the last 20 years, they're either broken or severely deficient," Prendergast told a roomful of elected officials, and political and business leaders. "Less people are going to Washington [for funding]. Even less people going to the statehouse. They're trying to find localized sources . . . to get done what needs to be done."

McDonald echoed Prendergast, noting that the federal Highway Trust Fund, which has supported transportation in New York for six decades, could go bankrupt as early as August.

"It's going to fall more on state and local governments to deal with these issues," said McDonald, who cited Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's New York Works initiative, which provides incentives for economic development in the state, as a way to do more with less.

Foye said public-private partnerships also will play an increasingly large role in transportation projects, including the $3.5 billion construction of a new central terminal at LaGuardia Airport and a $1.5 billion effort to build a new Goethals Bridge. Continuing to neglect aging and deteriorating infrastructure is not an option, Foye said.

"We can and have to do better," Foye said. "If we don't, there's going to be across this Island tens of thousands of jobs that won't be created and, across this country, millions."

Two appointments to transportation posts were announced at the event at the Fox Hollow Country Club in Woodbury. Joseph Brown was named director of the DOT's Region 10, covering Nassau and Suffolk.Brown was most recently acting director of Region 11 in New York City.

State Sen. Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset) is the chairman of the Senate Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee, which will oversee projects, including for the Long Island Rail Road.

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