Drive across the new Tappan Zee Bridge and you are cruising on what is arguably America’s highest-profile, highest-dollar-cost public infrastructure project.
But once off the bridge on the eastbound side, the conditions on Westchester’s arterials are a far different story. The Bronx River Parkway, Taconic State Parkway, Saw Mill River Parkway, I-287 and I-684 in large part have road surface conditions that have been deplorable for years, falling well short of nationally recognized highway standards, and that are especially hazardous for motorists in wet or icy conditions.
And those poor conditions continue on into Putnam and Dutchess counties.
While the New York State Department of Transportation Regional Office in Poughkeepsie has made progress, it is far too little and far too long in the coming. They just don’t have the funds. But the real problem lies in the governor’s office.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo lacks a meaningful vision for the state, a failure that is reflected in other ways, but certainly in our regional roadways and our overall regional infrastructure. There are some new roadway projects in the making, but the basics of safe road maintenance have been shamefully neglected.
This governor might spend less time commenting on social issues, such as publicly scolding North Carolina for its stand on transgender bathrooms. We don’t need a governor to offer us moral guidance. We have houses of worship for that!
What is clearly needed is a new, adequately funded, statewide transportation bond act. Long overdue, Gov. Cuomo, long overdue.
The late Gov. Mario M. Cuomo, and later Gov. George E. Pataki, had in common the recognition and clear vision that overall modern transportation modalities and safe highways were gubernatorial imperatives.
Gov. Mario M. Cuomo’s early 1980s initiative, The Rebuild New York Bond Act, made a solid commitment to the state’s infrastructure.
Gov. Pataki’s 2005 $2.9 Billion Rebuild and Renew New York State Transportation Bond Act successfully targeted funds to upgrade and modernize transportation hubs, airports and marine ports across New York. Both governors knew that modern infrastructure and the financial commitment to make it possible were key to New York’s economic competitiveness and the state’s overall economic vitality.
Both governors were nationally recognized for their vision and leadership, and properly so.
And both governors knew that good public policy is the best politics!
In contrast, this being a gubernatorial election year, as happened in the prior election year, 2014, these arterials have been given a quick-and-dirty, slap-dab patch job, slathering a thin coat of asphalt on some areas, but leaving undone long stretches of rough, scrabbled roadways, poorly repaired potholes and below-grade highway conditions.
What a shame!
What an embarrassment!
Phil Pepe Jr., now retired, was for more than 25 years the principal of a government affairs/public policy consulting practice specializing in infrastructure and environmental policy issues, and overall economic development matters in New York state, five other states and Canada. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.