TO: Batchellerville Bridge Action Committee Members
FROM: Peter VanAvery
DATE: November 7, 2009

The Edinburg Bridge of Life Committee, joined by advocates for other bridge projects across the state, will hold a press conference and rally at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, November 10, on the east lawn of the State Capitol in Albany. You are urged to attend and participate in the rally.

Among the NYS officials expected: Senator Hugh Farley, Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward, and Senator Betty Little. The Committee will bring signs, and one of its members will be a featured speaker. The rally will probably run for an hour and a half.

To make a maximum impact on state officials, the Committee urges bridge users to turn out in force. A bus will leave Fuller's parking lot in Edinburg at 8:00 a.m. If you want to reserve a seat or have questions, please call Paula at 863-6969. There will be no charge for seats, but donations to cover the cost of the bus will be appreciated. Following the rally, bus riders will probably stop for lunch and then depart for Edinburg at around 1:00 p.m.

As for seasonal property owners who make their permanent homes in the Capital District, this event will be held practically in their backyard. I hope to see a lot of them there on Tuesday.

This Committee is doing a great job for the lake community. Last Saturday's rally at the bridge attracted 250 concerned citizens and was covered by four TV stations and two newspapers (the Gazette ran a front-page photo on its Sunday edition). If you'd like to show your appreciation, consider a donation. Please make out your check to the Edinburg Emergency Squad and mail it to them at P.O. Box 904, Northville, NY 12134.

How does the Batchellerville Bridge stack up against other bridges in the state? NYS Department of Transportation inspectors rate it 3.35 out of 7.00. Any bridge rated 5.00 or lower is considered deficient. That includes 38 percent of New York's bridges. Statewide, more than 100 bridges are rated 3.38 or lower, including the Crown Point Bridge in Essex County. It was rated 3.38 when the State closed it on October 16.

Why are the our bridges and roads in such bad shape? A press release issued on October 29 by NYS Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli reveals the answer. It's titled "Highway Robbery: State's Ailing Roads & Bridges Robbed of 65 Percent of Highway & Bridge Trust Fund Money." Read the complete text at An excerpt:

Since 1991, just 34.9 percent, or $11.6 billion, of the money in the state's Dedicated Highway and Bridge Trust Fund went directly toward the repair and improvement of the state's deteriorating roads and bridges, according to a report released by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli today at a press conference on Long Island. DiNapoli's report notes that the Division of Budget projects the percentage of capital spending will decline to 21 percent in fiscal year 2013-14. Approximately $3.9 billion will need to be transferred from the state's General Fund to the Highway and Bridge Trust Fund over the next five years to meet the Trust Fund's obligations.

"Only one-third of the money in the Highway and Bridge Trust Fund has actually been used to pay for highways and bridges," DiNapoli said. "The rest has been siphoned off to pay for debt service on back-door borrowing and to fund operational costs for the DMV and the state Department of Transportation.

"This money should be going toward keeping our roads and bridges safe, not to fund state agency operations. The bridge closing in Crown Point is just one more example of why this is so important. If this trend continues, the state will have to transfer nearly $4 billion into the Trust Fund over the next five years. Using this dedicated capital money to pay for operations and debt service is just one more gimmick on the list of New York's bad fiscal choices."

From FY 1993-94 through FY 2008-09, only 34.9 percent, or $11.6 billion of Dedicated Highway and Bridge Trust Fund spending was on capital projects while 37.7 percent, or $12.6 billion, went to fund state operations for the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Department of Transportation. The remaining 27.4 percent, or $9.1 billion, of spending paid for debt service.

The Trust Fund was created in 1991 to fund the construction and rehabilitation of state-owned roads and bridges. Initially, the Trust Fund was established as a self-sustaining, pay-as-you-go model to fund transportation capital expenses with revenues from highway and motor vehicle taxes. However, starting in FY 1994-95, the Trust Fund paid debt service for bonds that were issued by the Thruway Authority and never approved by voters. Operational revenue and spending were also added to the Trust Fund, further diluting its original mission.

DiNapoli's report notes growth in state operations and debt service spending far outpaced spending on capital projects. Over the 16-year period, spending on capital projects grew by just 17.5 percent, while spending on state operations and debt service grew by 191.7 percent and 577.1 percent respectively.

Be sure to read the editorial about the Regulating District's financial problems in the November 6 edition of the Daily Gazette. (I'd be happy to e-mail you a copy.) An excerpt:

What now? Both FERC and HRBRRD have commissioned parallel studies to determine exactly who benefits from the Great Sacandaga's flow and to what extent. HRBRRD is also preparing to issue bonds, allowing it to buy time while honoring its obligations to the local governments and school districts that are counting on that tax revenue and badly need it. And once the studies are done, the agency will be looking to come up with a new assessment scheme.

LaFave says the scheme will not involve any assessments of permit holders on the lake, which is hard to understand since they clearly benefit. HRBRRD is likely to ask more of already-recognized, but financially hard-pressed, downstream beneficiaries such as Albany, Green Island and other communities that rely on the reservoir for flood control. It will also probably identify new beneficiaries, such as whitewater operations and sewage treatment plants.

The lake's level is currently at 761.3 feet above sea level, about 3.5 feet above target.