Author­ity lacks fund­ing for high­way re­pairs

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE -

It will cost about $13 bil­lion to re­turn the Thruway to its orig­i­nal con­di­tion, but the Thruway Author­ity doesn’t have the money to cover needed up­grades.

That’s the find­ing of a new au­dit re­port from the state Comptroller’s Of­fice.

Some por­tions of the su­per­high­way and its bridges are more than 60 years old and are near­ing the last stages of their pro­jected use­ful lives.

In 2014, the author­ity spent about $1.1 bil­lion, in­clud­ing about $711 mil­lion to sup­port Thruway op­er­a­tions, $281 mil­lion for its cap­i­tal pro­gram and $66 mil­lion for New York State Canal Corp. op­er­a­tions, the re­port states. (That spend­ing did not in­clude costs as­so­ci­ated with con­struc­tion of the new Tap­pan Zee Bridge.)

And while the Thruway Author­ity’s fis­cal con­di­tion has shown some im­prove­ment in re­cent years, “sig­nif­i­cant con­cerns still re­main,” the comptroller’s re­port says. Its says the author­ity’s use of debt in­creased and, as a re­sult, its li­a­bil­i­ties rose al­most 83 per­cent, from $3.5 bil­lion in 2010 to $6.4 bil­lion in 2014. The author­ity has im­ple­mented sev­eral cost-re­duc­tion strate­gies, the re­port states, but they are lim­ited to pay­roll and ben­e­fit ex­penses, with es­ti­mated sav­ings of about $26 mil­lion a year be­tween 2010 and 2014. Only about 10 per­cent of the high­way and 20 per­cent of its bridges have been re­placed or re­con­structed.

A key rec­om­men­da­tion by the Comptroller’s Of­fice is for the author­ity to de­velop and im­ple­ment a long-term com­pre­hen­sive strate­gic plan to ad­dress fund­ing needs to pay for re­pairs to or re­place com­po­nents of the ag­ing in­fra­struc­ture.

The Thruway Author­ity re­sponded to the au­dit: “We are mak­ing ma­jor cap­i­tal in­vest­ments in our sys­tem in­clud­ing the new ... bridge to re­place the Tap­pan Zee, one of the largest in­fra­struc­ture projects of its kind in the coun­try. We are re­pair­ing bridges and road­ways across the state and keep­ing our com­mit­ment to hav­ing the best main­tained high­way sys­tem in the coun­try, mak­ing our high­way safe for mil­lions of mo­torists a year. We’re do­ing all that while im­ple­ment­ing a va­ri­ety of costre­duc­tion strate­gies — all of which the comptroller read­ily ac­knowl­edges in his re­port.”

Ear­lier this month, the Thruway Author­ity said it would not in­crease tolls on the high­way in 2017.

It will cost $13bil­lion to re­turn the Thruway to its orig­i­nal con­di­tion, but there isn't enough money, a new re­port says.

FILE PHOTO BY TONY ADAMIS

The New York State Thruway, north­bound, is shown near the Malden Ser­vice Area in Sauger­ties in 2013.

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