OLD WESTBURY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A deadline was fast approaching in Washington, D.C. as of Monday, with the Federal Highway Trust Fund running on empty and the possibility of hundreds of road projects coming to a halt.
As CBS 2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer warned drivers that federal money for repairs and rebuild highways, bridges and overpasses is about to run out.
“It’s called the ‘highway shutdown,'” Schumer said Monday. “You’ve heard of the government shutdown — and the government did shut down — we don’t want to have a ‘highway shutdown.'”
Schumer said the Federal Highway Trust Fund is set to expire August 1, meaning bridge and repair projects across the nation would come to a screeching halt.
New York State gets more than $1.5 billion a year from the fund to repair and upgrade obsolete bridges. Statewide, 7,000 bridge projects receive federal aid from the fund.
More than 400 bridges and overpasses on Long Island would be among the projects affected, including an overpass on the Long Island Expressway in Old Westbury, where Schumer sounded the alarm, 1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera reported.
Among the others that would be affected is the Ellison Avenue Bridge in Westbury, Long island, which is a stone’s throw from homeowners’ backyards and is crumbling – with pieces of rebar sticking out.
“It’s coming apart,” said Carmine Zaino of Westbury. “Once in a while, a piece of concrete comes down.”
The Ellison Avenue Bridge and the other bridges and overpasses have been deemed structurally deficient or obsolete. The same designation was given to the Interstate 35-W Mississippi River Bridge in Minneapolis, which collapsed in August 2007 and killed 13 people.
Come Aug. 1 of this year, the Federal Highway Trust Fund, which fuels more than 100,000 road projects nationwide, will run dry.
Schumer warned Monday of the danger to drivers if the road fund goes broke. In New York State alone, 409 federal road projects with thousands of jobs could be put on hold.
Schumer urged the passage of a short-term fix.
“This patch, which we need to pass, could last us through December, and by then Congress could come together on a long term plan,” Schumer said.
Lawmakers disagree on how to replenish the fund that has been in the red for years. Presently, motorists pay 18.4 cents per gallon into the fund, and AAA has supported an increase.
“What’s the alternative? Letting the roads go to hell, basically,” said John Corlett of AAA New York. “And that’s not an option.”
Without an agreement in Congress, local municipalities fear they would have to foot the bill for needed repairs.
“It would be devastating. It would be devastating. It would be a tremendous tax burden on residents,” said Old Westbury Mayor Fred Carillo.
The last time the federal gas tax was raised was 21 years ago, but improved fuel efficiency means less money going into the Highway Trust Fund. The U.S. Senate vote to save the fund could come as soon as Tuesday.
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