The battle between drivers & mass transit users has raged on for ages & will continue to do so long after I’m gone. In what can be classified as round (enter any ridiculously high number here), the fate of our transit system might depend on the benefits aimed towards drivers. William Neuman has more in his report which will appear in today’s print of the New York Times:
Almost from the beginning, Republicans have criticized the push to have the State Legislature pass a financial rescue plan for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority because it ignored another gaping hole in transportation spending: financing for a statewide highway and bridge-building program.
Those complaints have taken on a new urgency as the rescue plan has floundered in a narrowly divided State Senate, which is controlled by Democrats who acknowledge that passing the plan may require Republican support.
“To just ignore the highway, road and bridge plan and go to trying to negotiate a schedule for a new M.T.A. capital plan was just not the right thing to do,” said Senator Thomas W. Libous, a Republican from Binghamton who is the ranking minority member on the Senate Transportation Committee.
The dispute centers on separate five-year capital spending programs for the New York City metropolitan area’s mass transportation system and the state roadway network, both of which expire within the next 12 months.
In the past, the Legislature has generally allotted equal amounts to roads and transit.
That has ensured support from both parties and all areas of the state: The city is seen as benefiting most from the transit money, while upstate areas rely heavily on roadway spending.
But that pattern was broken last year when Mr. Paterson chose to seek a financial rescue for the authority first.
The rescue plan was primarily intended to be a stable source of financing for the authority’s next capital program, which is to run from 2010 to 2014.
“If you brought in the bridge and highway program, that would help it become a bipartisan issue, as it’s been in the past,” said Robert D. Yaro, president of the Regional Plan Association, a civic policy and planning group. He said allowing the capital programs to lapse would cost the state tens of thousands of jobs. “This is a pretty fundamental economic issue for the whole state,” he said.
An estimate last year said a new highway program would cost $26 billion, though its final price would probably mirror that of the authority’s program. It would pay for general roadway upkeep, like repaving and the installation of new signs and traffic signals, and also for larger projects, like the construction of bridges and roads.
The road and transit programs receive some funds from the federal government, with the rest coming through the sale of bonds.
Borrowing costs for the current highway program are paid out of a trust fund financed largely by gasoline-related taxes and motor vehicle registration and licensing fees. But that fund is running out of money, and to pay for the next five-year program more financing will have to be identified — possibly by substantially increasing the same taxes and fees that supply the trust fund.
That will not be an easy task during a recession and will almost certainly ignite a public debate that could be just as rancorous as the one raging over the transportation authority rescue.
An early proposal for a new five-year highway program written last year estimated that the state would have to inject an additional $5 billion into the highway trust fund over the course of the program — with more needed to pay debt service in following years.
Click here for the complete report.
Senator Libous’ statement
To just ignore the highway, road and bridge plan and go to trying to negotiate a schedule for a new M.T.A. capital plan was just not the right thing to do,”
is the exact kind of rhetoric that comes from the side of drivers who look down on the importance of mass transit & the millions who depend on it. This kind of attitude has been on display in Albany from so many over the years mainly in the form of inadequate funding. At this point, we need to see results. If it takes rubbing some greedy hands, so be it as the funding of our transit system has to be taken care of. The region can under no circumstances afford for our system & its infrastructure to crumble. The repercussions of such a tragic event will be felt by everyone & I mean everyone!
xoxo Transit Blogger