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Editorial: Infrastructure bank would help repair New York

Credit: Tribune Media Services / Michael Osbun

Drivers in New York don't have to ride very far to see that our roads and bridges are old. Much of our infrastructure is rickety, and in some cases, crumbling beneath us.

Lousy roads cost $4.5 billion, or $403 per motorist on average, in auto repairs each year in this state, according to a recent report by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Across New York, 60 percent of roads are considered to be in poor or mediocre condition, while 2,169 of the state's 17,420 bridges, or 12.5 percent, are considered "structurally deficient." That means they're damaged and need more than routine maintenance. Of those, 431 are obsolete -- lanes are too small and clearances too low for large vehicles, and there are inadequate shoulders to pull off for a flat tire or other emergency.

The Tappan Zee Bridge, soon to be replaced at a cost of $3.9 billion, is probably the best-known crossing that is considered obsolete. But there are many more bridges big and small that need attention.

On Long Island, two LIRR overpasses in Nassau County and a road overpass in Suffolk have the worst rating from the New York State Department of Transportation. In Nassau, they are the LIRR overpass on Barstow Road in Great Neck Plaza, and the LIRR overpass on Ellison Avenue in Westbury. In Suffolk, the state cited Wellwood Avenue at Route 27 in Babylon.

Dozens more were found to be inadequate.

Fixing these and others will cost money that cash-strapped governments don't have. That same civil-engineering report card pegged the price in the coming years at $3.6 trillion across the country and roughly $9.3 billion in New York, giving our state the dubious honor of having the costliest infrastructure needs. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and legislative leaders agreed to spend $438 million, or $75 million more than budgeted this past year, on road, bridge and highway repairs starting this month.

While these expenditures will help, they fall far short of what's really needed. That's why a national infrastructure bank to leverage public dollars with private investment is needed.