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Federal infrastructure plan could spur Cortland area economy

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Workers set out lane closure cones on the Route 81 access Wednesday in Homer.

CORTLAND — More road work may be in store for Cortland County contractors like Suit-Kote Corp. and Economy Paving, if a federal initiative to fund infrastructure repairs goes through as planned within 100 days of the new presidential administration.

Sen. Charles Schumer on Wednesday said in a phone conference with reporters that he backed a proposal to invest $1 trillion into infrastructure improvements. President-elect Donald Trump has floated the idea, saying he would make addressing the country’s infrastructure a top priority.

“It’s plain to see, New York’s infrastructure is falling apart,” Schumer said, citing deteriorating roads, bridges, transit systems and sewer systems.

Schumer also said work needs to be done to the electrical grid, and mentioned the need to create new projects for storm and flood mitigation and new schools and workforce training facilities.
According to a congressional budget office report, in 2014 the federal government spent $96 billion on infrastructure, of which $69 billion went to capital improvements and about $27 billion went to operations and maintenance.

Highway officials in Cortland County remain uncertain what the proposal would mean for their municipalities.

Preble Highway Superintendent Jeff Griswold said he expects the funding would come through the Federal Highway Works Administration, which he says does not cover roads in Preble. The only benefit for Preble, Griswold said, would be in the trickle-down form if perhaps the state could give extra state aid.

“It’s what I’ve advocated to Albany before. You get a bump federally so give us 20 or 40 percent of that money, let it trickle back to us since the feds are covering this,” he said.

Griswold said culvert projects, which can cost up to $300,000, are often overlooked, adding there are “a lot more culverts failing in this country than bridges.” These projects can cause a hardship for a small town to fund, he said.

Cortland Superintendent of Public Works Chris Bistocchi hopes money would also fund water and sewer projects.

“We could upgrade our 100-year-old sanitary sewer system and 100-year-old drinking water system. They are both in dire need of upgrades,” Bistocchi said.

The city has two federally funded bridge projects budgeted for the 2016-17 fiscal year, Bistocchi said, on Madison Street and on Rickard Street. Federal funding means the city will spend $15,000 in local funds for the $500,000 Madison Street bridge project, said Bistocchi, calling it a “good deal.”

Cortlandville Town Supervisor Dick Tupper said the idea of more money being available is hopeful at a time the town is eyeing development.

“We’ve just run a water line out on Luker Road and we have a sewer line out there and several industries and empty space. It’s an area we hope to see future development so if a new road would help us we’d certainly be interested,” he said.

Cortlandville-based contractor Suit-Kote Corp., is optimistic about the prospect of an infrastructure program, said spokesman Brian Renna.

“There’s no question that it brings with it excitement,” Renna said, adding it will be a “great shot in the arm for industries like ours and infrastructure across the board.”

Schumer would back the infrastructure proposal, assuming it “does not come at expense of cutting other vital government programs to pay for it.” Schumer would not accept any proposal made up of “gimmicks or tax breaks that don’t actually help move the economy forward.”

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