Engineers give state’s infrastructure poor marks

Rush hour traffic clogs the Rexford Bridge as seen from the Clifton Park side of the Mohawk RIver Thursday, July 9, 2015. PETER R. BARBER/DAILY GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHERRush hour traffic clogs the Rexford Bridge as seen from the Clifton Park side of the Mohawk RIver Thursday, July 9, 2015. PETER R. BARBER/DAILY GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER

By Steven Cook
Gazette Reporter
NISKAYUNA — The report card is in and New York’s infrastructure needs improvement.
That’s the conclusion of the American Society of Civil Engineers, which released its first analysis of everything from the state’s aviation to bridges and waste water treatment.
The society’s overall grade for New York: C-.
The society announced its findings at an event Sept. 29 within sight of the Rexford Bridge, the notoriously congested span that has been a symbol of the state’s aging infrastructure. Event organizers hope it will now be a symbol of how to address those overall problems.
Replacement of the span is set to start in the spring and will result in two lanes each way, instead of the current one.
“Much more investing is needed,” the society’s Mark Rusnica said.
The report card is the result of a review of the state’s infrastructure by a team of state engineering professionals gathered by the society. They assigned grades to each type of infrastructure based on a set of eight criteria from capacity and condition to resilience and innovation.
New York’s highest grades came for parks and solid waste. Each received a B-. The worst grades were given to bridges, waste water and roads, which received marks of D+, D and D- respectively.
Local legislators and business officials attended Tuesday’s event. Capital Region Chamber CEO Mark Eagan argued that infrastructure investment is key to keeping the region growing and prosperous. The state’s grades wouldn’t be acceptable for students, he said.
Assemblyman Phil Steck, D-Colonie, said infrastructure, along with education, should be the biggest priorities in state government. Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam, called for additional investment from the state for infrastructure critical.
“It will improve safety for our public, prevent costly repairs down the road and it will also help improve our economy,” Santabarbara said. “This report really should be a wake-up call to all of New York state.”
The society cites a third of the state’s major highways as in poor or fair condition. The society estimates that rough roads and congestion cost drivers. Over the next 15 years, $40 billion must be spent to keep up with road conditions, according to the society.
More than 50 percent of the state’s bridges are more than 75 years old, more than 400 are over 100 years old. More than 2,000 of the state’s 17,456 bridges are structurally deficient, requiring maintenance and improvements to operate, according to the society.
New York state is not alone. According to the society’s website, among nearby states with grades in recent years, only Vermont has a better overall grade — a C.