It’s 113,000 miles long, has 17,400 bridges and seven million passengers ride it each weekday. It’s also heavily in debt with “no credible strategy for meeting future needs.” New York State’s transportation system, including the Department of Transportation and the MTA, was scrutinized by Lieutenant Governor Richard Ravitch in a report released on November 17. “New York has long failed to secure enough revenues to meet both the operating expenses and the capital requirements of its transportation system,” Ravitch says.
There’s no sugar coating in this study which says that lawmakers and administrators have been deferring needed repairs and dependable sources of financing for many years — and now it’s time to pay the piper.
- “In another era, New York might have asked voters for permission to borrow more money,” writes Jay Jochnowitz in the Albany Times-Union. “But as Mr. Ravitch points out in a new report, that strategy is no longer practical. The state already has amassed more transportation debt than it can pay for.”
- “Ravitch urges the state to search for new revenues sources,” reports the SecondAvenueSagas.com blog. “He doesn’t flat-out call for congestion pricing, but he has been a long-term advocate of a fee-based transit funding solution that involves traffic calming as well. He also calls upon the state to institute ‘special taxing districts’ that capture revenues from ‘certain mega- projects that have the potential to dramatically increase economic activity and property values in an area.’ In essence, developers would have to pay higher tax rates to ensure better transit.”
- The StreetsBlog says “Ravitch pulls no punches. He calls for not only tolls on the bridges into Manhattan, but on all major bridges and highways in the state.”
- In the report, Ravitch says NYS needs to change its procurement procedures and streamline the process for major infrastructure improvements. “The State must enact legislation that empowers its transportation agencies to procure the best services at the most competitive rates. Design-build contracts shorten the planning and design process for major projects, thereby saving time and money. Design-build contracts are one of the surest ways to reduce construction costs for mega-projects like the Tappan Zee Bridge, and they are an innovation in wide use around the world. New York will continue to lose the edge to global rivals like Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Singapore if it insists on handcuffing itself with outdated procurement policies.”
- The report suggests that mega projects like the new TZB should be funded with a regional formula drawing on funds from the whole footprint which will benefit from its completion. “New York must get serious about pricing its transportation network effectively.The State should initiate an Environmental Impact Statement for a regional tolling strategy that would rationalize the downstate tolling regime.The development and phase-in of a coordinated regional tolling strategy that includes all key bridges and statewide roads, especially the parkway system, could provide funds for projects like the Tappan Zee Bridge.”
- Ravitch says that the current environmental review process needs to be reviewed. “New York should consider easing environmental reviews for projects with a demonstrably positive environmental impact, such as transit and intercity rail. We must reduce the gestation period for these projects. The environmental process for critical projects should not take longer than the actual construction period.The State should also press for a streamlining of the federal environmental review process for select project-types.”
The complete report is available at scribd.com.