Road work

Road work Credit: Newsday

With unemployment among construction workers five times greater than the Hudson Valley region's 7.2 percent rate and their industry showing the largest losses in New York State, the trade unions are eager to see Congress get its act together on funding critical transportation projects. It's about jobs.

For the rest of us, a simple drive along the area's aging roads and bridges -- including the 57-year-old Tappan Zee -- will tell the story.

The nation's crumbling infrastructure needs fixing and that includes arteries vital to this region.

But Congress, in particular the House of Representatives, can't seem to come up with a long-term transportation blueprint, in part because the Republican majority keeps stalling passage of a bill that has historically been routine and bipartisan.

The current law expires June 30.

While the House is working on its ninth transportation extension since the law expired in 2009 and will likely extend funding yet again through the November elections, the uncertainty that's good for a certain brand of politics isn't beneficial for businesses, residents or commuters in the region.

The House should follow the Senate's lead and pass a bipartisan bill extending current funding through September 2013. This bill would create or maintain an estimated 1.8 million jobs across the country, and at least 113,000 in this region.

It would also help fund Metropolitan Transportation Authority transit programs as well as other lesser known, but nonetheless important, projects, including a bypass road off busy Route 9A in Elmsford, new ramps connecting the Hutchinson River and Cross County parkways, and reconstruction of the Bear Mountain State Parkway.

And with the new Tappan Zee Bridge's projected $5.2-billion price tag, federal reauthorization of the transportation bill is essential to replace the span.

Albert Girardi, business manager of the International Union of Operating Engineers in Briarcliff Manor, put it well when he said skilled labor is not looking to work on bridges to nowhere. It wants to fix those that are already here.

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