U.S. Rep. Richard Hanna, R-Barneveld, on Monday spoke about the passage of a long-term federal transportation bill during a press conference at the Oneida County Department of Public Works Garage.
Hanna’s office said the passage of the bill is the most significant transportation policy reform the United States has seen in decades. They said the bill allows more than $100 billion to be spent on highway, mass transit and other transportation programs during the next two years, and thousands of jobs will be created in New York.
Hanna, vice-chairman of the House subcommittee on Highways and Transit, played an integral role in negotiating the final bill as a member of the House-Senate Conference Committee. He met personally with the leading Democrat — Sen. Barbara Boxer — and the leading Republican — U. S. Rep. John Mica — on the conference committee.
“This bill is the culmination of more than a year’s work aimed at improving our national transportation policies,” said Hanna. “We now have two years of steady federal funding coming to New York State so we can invest in our ailing roads and bridges. This bill will help improve our infrastructure and put so many of our neighbors back to work strengthening the middle class and rebuilding our economy.”
Hanna, who faces two challengers in this November’s election for the 22nd congressional district, has already heard some criticism from one of his opponents. Dan Lamb, who will be his Democratic challenger, issued a statement on Monday on the bill passage.
“This law slashes New York’s highway funding by $334 million, causing the loss of 11,000 New York jobs,” said Lamb. “Something is obviously better than nothing, but it’s amazing that Congressman Hanna thinks this is a victory. This law is a textbook example of what is wrong with Washington.”
The bill does have its supporters. State Department of Transportation Commissioner Joan McDonald stood with Hanna to announce the passage of the highway bill and what it means for the state. They were joined by Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente and state Sen. Joseph A. Griffo.
Highlights of the bill include:
• More than $100 billion will be spent over the next two years on federal highway projects, rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure and putting middle and working class men and women back to work.
• This bill eliminates wasteful or duplicative programs that for too long diverted funds from worthy transportation projects to unrelated causes.
• It will significantly reduce the time it takes to complete major projects from 14 years by cutting through red tape and bureaucracy that can mire projects in lawsuits and unnecessary reviews.
• This bill contains zero earmarks—ending the history of “bridges to nowhere.” That means more funds are available for real work that needs to be done in upstate.
Page 2 of 2 - Hanna’s office also said he negotiated key concessions from the Senate’s bill that would have devastated the Metropolitan Planning Organizations in Utica, Rome and Binghamton. These groups play a vital role in identifying and planning for needed projects in these areas.
Working with the National Association of Development Organizations, Hanna also included a provision to provide small, rural communities a greater say in the planning process to ensure their voices are heard when important decisions are made about which projects to fund.
“At a time when our infrastructure is facing tremendous needs, Oneida County could have ill afforded the complete halt that could have followed if this bill had not been passed,” said Picente. “...[Hanna’s] work to pass a bill that reduces the bureaucratic red tape that has stalled essential projects for far too many years in the past is an important step towards helping our region move forward.”
“Aging infrastructure is an issue throughout the state, and especially in the Mohawk Valley,” said state Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi in a news release. “Earlier this year, New York committed $1.6 billion to repair and rebuild bridges, roads and parks as part of the New York Works program. Federal funding will allow additional, much needed repair projects to be taken on.”
Compiled From Telegram Staff Reports