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Local officials call on state to update outdated infrastructure

Ashley Hirtzel

A coalition comprised of local elected officials, laborers, and members of public and private business are urging New York State to upgrade outdated infrastructure across the region. The effort is part of the “Rebuild NY Now” campaign that kicked-off in South Buffalo Wednesday.

The campaign aims to highlight the states obligation to repair outdated roads, bridges, and sewer systems that may become safety hazards to people that utilize them. It also points to the crucial need for upgrades as area businesses rely on reliable infrastructure.

Buffalo Niagara Partnership President and CEO Dottie Gallagher-Cohen says the ability to move people and freight efficiently throughout the region is key to maintaining a globally competitive economy.

“Roads, bridges, highways and transit are the backbone to our success. It is imperative that we not only fund the necessary maintenance of this infrastructure, but that we invest in enhancing our transportation networks as we would for any key economic development initiative,” said Gallagher-Cohen.

Assemblyman Sean Ryan says fixing public infrastructure will create jobs, and ensure the safety and the well-being of residents. He cites the need to repair western New York’s more than 100 year old sewer system.

“Think of the amount of days our beaches are closed every summer. They’re closed because our sewers are going into our rivers, our streams, and the Great Lakes. So, we need to look at that. From an economic perspective, as ratepayers and taxpayers we pay more for our water bills, because we have to pay more to clean our water that comes to our house. So, we’re polluting our water and paying more to clean it. So, with good infrastructure investment we can make that go away and take that cost away from taxpayers,” said Ryan.

Ryan says there are also 300 bridges in western New York that are functionally obsolete. He says if the state doesn’t act now the infrastructure problems will only get worse. Village of East Aurora Mayor Allan Kasprzak says he believes that if municipalities weren’t working under a property tax cap there would be additional funds for upgrades.

“Like a human beings lifespan is short, so is the lifespan of a bridge or a road. We’re in a position now where we can do something about this and $5 million will go a long way to do this,” said Kasprzak.   

A recent study shows that for every billion dollars spent of infrastructure repair and development more than 28,000 jobs are created. The research finds that crumbling roads cost all New York drivers more than $1,500 annually.