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New York's roads are bad but parks are good, says new civil engineers' report

Tom Magnarelli
American Society of Civil Engineers' 2015 report card on New York’s infrastructure.";

The American Society of Civil Engineers issued gave New York’s infrastructure and gave an overall grade of C- on its 2015 report card. Syracuse officials hope infrastructure funding will come soon from the state and federal governments.

The lowest grade on New York’s report card was a D- for roads and the group notes that 45 percent of Syracuse’s roads are in poor or mediocre condition. On average, Syracuse drivers will have to spend $477 every year on extra vehicle operating costs because of the rough roads. Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner says she has been told there is state money that will be available to help fund road improvements.

“There’s a transportation memorandum of understanding that’s being circulated that’s not been executed,” Miner said.

Even with all the dysfunction in Washington, Miner said federal money could also be available to help fund investments.

“The one thing that everybody’s saying has the best hopes of passing through Washington is a surface transportation bill to address infrastructure,” Miner said.

Safety for rural drivers is also a concern in the report. Rural driving fatalities are three times higher than they are on all other roads in the state. The civil engineers suggest a list of highway improvements that could reduce that number, but a lack of funding causes the state to focus on the more immediate safety issues.    

New York’s highest grade was a B- for its parks which Beth Ann Smith of the New York State Council of American Society of Civil Engineers said is a success story. In 2010, dozens of state parks faced closure because of a budget crisis and $1 billion in backlogged projects. Smith says she believes because the parks are so visible, people voiced their outrage and the state stepped up.

“Most of the infrastructure you don’t think about," Smith said. "You drive over the roads and you really don’t think about what they are until there’s that big pot hole.”

About one-third of highway roads in New York qualify for federal funds. Every year, the report suggests $2 billion in funding is going to be needed to bring the state’s pavements to a good condition. Funding has fallen short and since 2008, the New York Department of Transportation has been spending less than $500 million every year on pavement improvements.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.