BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – A report by New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli says it would take about $27 billion to fix hundreds of aging, locally owned bridges.
“Local communities are facing a big price tag for maintaining and repairing bridges,”DiNapoli said. “These structures are aging and the cost for repairs will likely only increase over time.”
According to the report, Erie County, which includes bridges owned by various municipalities, has the highest number of “structurally deficient” local bridges outside of New York City.
“Many local governments understand the importance of long-term planning for their infrastructure needs but they will need help,” said DiNapoli. “While the state has taken steps to make funds for repairs available, the assistance of the federal government has also been critical. Difficult decisions lie ahead, but these infrastructure needs must be addressed.”
In Erie County, there are 52 bridges owned by various municipalities that are considered structurally deficient.
Structurally deficient bridges are not unsafe, according to the comptroller’s report. “They either have load-bearing elements in poor condition or are prone to repeated flooding.”
Charlie Sickler, deputy commissioner of highways for Erie County, says the county owns around 19 bridges classified as structurally deficient.
Sickler says it takes a lot of money to keep up with the aging infrastructure.
“Overall, we’re probably spending 8 to 10 million on bridges every year, “said Sickler.
He says that includes state and federal aid.
“Another ten million would probably be very helpful,” he added.
According to the Comptroller’s report, bridges owned by the state’s local governments and authorities are more likely than state-owned bridges to be structurally deficient.
“Without enough funding to take care of them, it’s not going to get better on its own, okay. It can only get worse,” said Gabriel Deyo, the state’s deputy comptroller for local government.
“Really what we need here is an organized approach to come up with some type of plan to address the infrastructure needs on bridges in the state,” said Deyo.
The overall percentage of structurally deficient local bridges declined from 16.7 percent to 12.8 percent from 2002 to 2016, while the state’s percentage was relatively flat at around 9 percent.
The Comptroller’s report calls it “a major challenge for federal, state and local governments.”