DOBBS FERRY, N.Y. -- Local elected officials joined U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey at the Ashford Avenue Bridge this week to highlight the need for federal money to repair Westchester County's highway infrastructure.
The bridge was the site of a fatal crash last summer, and Congress has not approved a long-term Highway Trust Fund that would help pay for planned repairs. Reauthorization of short-term funding, set to expire on May 31, awaits a vote in the U.S. Senate.
“Jobs, economic growth, and public safety are at stake, but, unfortunately, there’s no plan to permanently reauthorize the Highway Trust Fund,'' said Lowey, a Democrat from Harrison.
Greenburgh Supervisor Paul Feiner said, "The Ashford Ave bridge desperately needs to be made safe. This bridge, along with others around the region, are in danger. . . . Governments are deferring infrastructure to the future. It's going to be more costly later on."
County Legislator MaryJane Shimsky of Hastings-on-Hudson called the bridge Westchester's "poster child for crumbling infrastructure. . . .This country's economy cannot long survive without a major infusion of funds into our transportation infrastructure."
At a news conference in Dobbs Ferry, Lowey said 660,000 construction jobs nationwide as well as economic growth and public safety are at risk if the trust fund expires. "I’m urging Congress to immediately pass a long-term Highway Trust Fund reauthorization, so that federal funding for local construction projects like the Ashford Avenue Bridge is not jeopardized,'' she said.
The federal government promised about $5 million for the Ashford Avenue Bridge, now in the final stages of contracting approval. Expiration of the Highway Trust Fund would terminate New York’s contract authority --so the state could not receive federal money already approved for the bridge. Without federal funds, local taxpayers would have to pay the entire repair bill.
"I applaud Congresswoman Lowey's leadership on public works projects,” said state Assemblyman Tom Abinanti of Pleasantville. “Improving our infrastructure not only creates a bridge from one side of the river to the other, but also a bridge to a better future."
Federal transportation bills historically lasted six years, but the U.S. House and Senate have been unable to come up with majority support for a long-term highway bill in recent sessions. Congress passed a two-year highway bill in 2012 and a 10-month extension last fall. The House, where Lowey is ranking member of the Appropriations Committee, renewed the Highway Trust Fund on Tuesday May 19, but for two months only. If the Senate does not agree with the House extension, federal highway funding will expire on May 31.
The Ashford Avenue Bridge crosses the Saw Mill River Parkway, connecting Dobbs Ferry to Ardsley. The construction project consists of removing and replacing the existing bridge deck and bearings, replacing a traffic signal, repairing and strengthening wing walls, piers, and abutments and repainting the steel superstructure.
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