Proposed bill could provide funding for bridges, roads

By Michelle Costanza

January 21, 2014 Updated Jan 21, 2014 at 8:15 PM EDT

Binghamton, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Re-instatement of a transportation act could create a new avenue to provide funding for Binghamton's infrastructure.

As of 2009, the current federal highway bill, MAP-21, does not provide a way for states to receive money through reduced-interest borrowing for roads, bridges and sewers, but bi-partisan support is strong for legislation that would update the bill.

The proposed State Transportation and Infrastructure Financing Innovation Act (STIFIA) would allow states to create infrastructure banks. Established with existing federal transportation money generated by gas and excise tax, the banks would provide assurance that municipalities are able to gather needed funds to rehabilitate local projects.

"States can receive 15 percent of that federal money and loan it to local communities," explained Congressman Richard Hanna.

Congress originally authorized the creation of infrastructure banks in 2005 to assist in local road and transit projects. Ten states. including New York, established banks. Since the program expired five years ago, the banks have since been inactive.

Hanna said that a large portion of money in the federal transportation pot currently goes downstate to support mass transit, and not enough money is provided to communities who need it in areas like the Southern Tier.

Mayor Rich David lent his support to STIFIA, addressing the issue of deteriorating roads and bridges in Binghamton.

Each year the City puts a plan in place to repair several bridges and roads -- this year the Exchange Street Bridge and East Clinton Street Bridge top the list -- that cost several millions of dollars.

Without infrastructure banks, bonds are taken out and interest quickly accrues to a large sum of money, which is ultimately paid for by taxpayers.

"Any initiative that will allow us access to different financing tools with lower interest rates, that's a good thing for the City of Binghamton," said Mayor David.

With a corresponding bill in the Senate, Hanna noted that there is a good chance that STIFIA will be adopted within the year. If the program is re-established, states will then have the choice to opt in.

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