Gray, Local Highway Superintendents Denounce $60 Million Cut in State Aid for Local Roads and Bridges

Assemblyman Scott Gray (R-Watertown) held a press conference in Watertown today to reject the proposed cuts to critical state funding for local roads and bridges in the 2024-25 State Budget. The $60 million cut to the Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS) will directly impact the safety and functionality of local roads and bridges. Spearheading the press conference alongside Gray was Town of Lorraine Highway Superintendent and Jefferson County Highway Superintendents Association President Joseph Wasilewski. Gray and Wasilewski were joined by Town of Theresa Highway Superintendent Mark Savage and Village of West Carthage Highway Superintendent Pete Crump to call on Gov. Hochul and the state Legislature to continue New York’s commitment to local transportation. Also in attendance were spokespeople from the office of Assemblyman Ken Blankenbush (R,C-Black River) and Sen. Mark Walczyk (R,C-49th Senate District).

“The imminent threat of a substantial $60 million reduction in CHIPS funding is destructive for our North Country communities, where rural roads bear the brunt of harsh weather conditions—winter snowstorms and icy conditions wreak havoc on our infrastructure every year. This will shift substantial costs to localities and increase taxes across the board by every jurisdiction,” Gray said. “These financial burdens are particularly felt in the North Country, where the state of our roads directly affects our wallets and well-being. We can confront this issue head-on by addressing the source of the problem: maintaining our roads. The consequences are measured not just in dollars, but in the safety and security of our family and friends who rely on the maintenance of our roads to get from point A to point B.”

Wasilewski said, “When it is proposed to cut funding that drives infrastructure maintenance, the message is clear: the people of New York are getting less than they deserve. The CHIPS program, along with local funding, is the lifeblood of our infrastructure. With 87% of roads in our state being maintained by towns, villages, cities and counties, the state must continue to fund these programs so the roads we travel daily do not continue to deteriorate. This infrastructure is the backbone of travel. Emergency services, schools, health care professionals, law enforcement and our families rely on safe roadways every day. With inflation at an all-time high, now is not the time to make cuts in an area that could lead to unsafe roadways for the people of New York.”

“My department is responsible for maintaining 49.67 centerline miles of road. Our yearly CHIPS allocation is approximately $165,000, which equates to approximately $3,300 per mile. Due to guidelines in the CHIPS program, this forces my department to have a road maintenance schedule that is stretched out more than 15 years,” said Savage. “Where we are geographically located makes road maintenance challenging. With many freeze and thaw cycles per year, our roads do not hold up like they would in the Southern Tier. Therefore, a cut in funding makes for a prolonged maintenance schedule, which makes it difficult for our highway department to stay ahead of deteriorating road conditions. I hope our partners in Albany consider our request for an increase in funding so the people of Theresa and all other municipalities in New York can get the road maintenance they deserve.”

“If the CHIPS program is cut by Gov. Hochul, the taxpayers of my local area will have to see an increase in the tax rate just to maintain what we have now, and it definitely will limit the service we provide on repairing roads in the future. Local budgets and taxpayers can only pick up so much of a reduction in funding before it severely starts affecting the safety of my roads and the community members driving on them,” said Crump.

Blankenbush said, “About 43% of the major roads in our state are in poor condition. Local roads are what our kids use to get to school and where we all travel every day for work and errands. Roads are crucial for keeping our communities connected and functioning well. It’s imperative that CHIPS receive the funding they need to ensure our roads are safe. I will continue to meet with local department heads and urge my colleagues on the other side to support our transportation system.”

“With the cost of everything continuing to rise and more unfunded mandates being handed down, local governments are forced to pick up even more slack. Sen. Walczyk’s long-standing position on this issue has never been more true: Albany needs to make the necessary investments in our roads and bridges so local officials can continue to provide residents the everyday, basic services they need,” said a spokesperson from Walczyk's office.