Washington Gridlock Ties Up Construction Projects on Long Island

Photo credit: Flickr, WSDOT

by Conor Teehan, WFUV.org
May 25, 2012

Congressman Steve Israel (D-Huntington) says stalled legislation means less jobs and more hazadorous roads. 

A political traffic jam in Congress is translating to real world transit woes. 

Democratic Congressman Steve Israel of Huntington is urging the United States' House of Representatives to pass a bill which would extend funding for various highway projects. 

The Senate has already passed a surface transportation reauthorization bill. That version provides two years of funding. But, Israel is doubtful his Republican counterparts in the House will pass the Senate's legislation. 

For years, projects to resurface Long Island roads like Jericho Turnpike have received little attention from Washington. And Israel says that means more accidents and unnecessary costs. 

Since 2009, Congress has green lighted temporary 30 to 90 day extensions. But Israel says those short term fixes have created serious instability in the construction industry, "you can't plan a paving project, you can't plan to rehabilitate a highway or rebuild a bridge based on nine short term extensions." 

Executive Director of The Long Island Contractors' Association, Marc Herbst, says his industry has lost 12,000 jobs in the past two years because of Congresses' tiptoeing. With no permanent funding, he says no long term projects get authorized, "no one knows how long or how much money will be available, so all the state governments have just basically stalled their typical business. Even if the money was available today, projects would need time to be designed." 

Herbst is a little more optimistic than Israel that things in Washington will get done, although he is concerned about the quality of the bill. "My concern is really the length," Herbst says, "the talk is maybe a two year maximum... we would like to see something longer, say six years as the past bill has been." 

The House recently passed an extension of the current transportation bill, but it will expire at the end of June.

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