Mayor Walsh Op-Ed: Good Roads Are a Smart Investment

Published on March 27, 2024

This opinion piece was posted by

Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh writes on behalf of the New York Conference of Mayors, where he serves on the executive committee.

As we make the transition from winter to spring, the impact of snow, ice and the freeze-thaw cycle on our roads is a painful reminder of the need for year-round investment in our infrastructure. It is expensive to build transportation systems that can withstand our four seasons in the Northeast, and costly to invest in the unavoidable maintenance and repair. Having the resources to stay on top of the ongoing needs of our local transportation infrastructure is essential to the vitality of every city and village in the state and can only be done with strong support from our state partners.

Investing in our transportation systems is critical to public safety, access to services and economic growth, as they play a fundamental role in connecting people, goods and services. Programs like the Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS), Extreme Winter Recovery Program, PAVE-NY and the Touring Routes program, have been game changers for local governments, allowing us to make necessary investments in our roads and bridges. State Assembly Transportation Chair Bill Magnarelli and our local Assembly and Senate delegation have been staunch advocates for these programs. The needs going forward, though, still outweigh the current level of resources these programs provide. Since the pandemic, the cost of supplies and materials such as fuel, asphalt and steel have increased dramatically, as has the cost of living and labor.

The role that transportation infrastructure plays in the overall safety of our communities and our residents cannot be overstated. In many parts of New York, the condition of our roads and bridges and the outdated structures associated with our transportation networks pose a significant threat. Well-maintained roads and signage reduce the likelihood of accidents. The modernization of transportation infrastructure allows for better coordination of emergency services. Investments in sidewalks, crosswalks and cycling lanes make our communities pedestrian-friendly. But all of these things require resources — resources that cities and villages do not have right now.

Our highways are also the backbone of New York’s economic vitality, linking businesses and individuals, connecting urban centers to rural areas, and moving people from one place to another. Modernized transportation infrastructure eases congestion, reduces travel times and saves money, thereby facilitating the more efficient and effective movement of goods and services, both domestically and internationally. Stronger transportation networks are also attractive to industries and businesses which will help grow our communities. And investment in our transportation infrastructure — whether it be large-scale projects or the resurfacing of our roads — leads to job creation across various skill levels and sectors.

Along with the New York Conference of Mayors, I urge the state to allocate additional funding to highway infrastructure programs like CHIPS so that municipalities can address the backlog of growing repairs and reduce the gap between sufficient funding for critical maintenance and capital investment needs and the available resources to pay for them. As the costs associated with deferred maintenance grow, so does the burden on our taxpayers.

Safe, reliable and well-maintained roads and highways are critical to unlocking the full economic potential of New York. When our state leaders enhance the financial commitment to New York’s local highway infrastructure, it’s not just an investment in concrete and asphalt, it’s a pathway to a more prosperous New York.