De Blasio: Congress, do the right thing by NYC

New Yorkers are always on the move. But the infrastructure we move on — our subways, buses, ferries, roads, and bridges — is stalled in Washington gridlock.

Since 2009, the federal funding for the transportation we need to grow, compete and get home at night has remained at the same level. And the funding has come in spurts, including a dozen unreliable extensions, some as short as 30 days.

Funding for our transit, roads and bridges is set to expire on May 31. If Congress fails to increase the allocation and pass a long-term bill that gives cities control of the money, the future of our cities will be jeopardized.

That’s why Thursday I’m joining a bipartisan group of 300 leaders spanning 150 cities — including some 60 mayors — to call on Congress to act now because all communities, large and small, are at risk.

We are making it clear that failure to invest in our subways, buses, roads and bridges is nothing less than failure to invest in our country’s future.

In NYC each day, close to 6 million people ride our subways; 330 million tons of freight pass through our streets in the metro region; 600,000 passengers move through Penn Station; 65,000 people take the Staten Island Ferry. The NYC Department of Transportation manages about 6,000 miles of road, 789 bridges and a million street signs.

Our transportation system keeps this region connected. It serves as the connective tissue not just for NYC residents, but also for the countless others across New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and beyond who depend on our transit, roads and bridges to make their livelihoods. Congress’ failure to invest could derail our regional economy. Transportation is equally vital to those who are most likely to fall behind in our economy. Those who most rely on affordable mass transit are seniors, students and hardworking families. Tackling our transportation needs means addressing income inequality and also creating work. Every $1 billion in federal transportation spending supports 13,000 local jobs.

As every commuter knows, if you are standing still, you are falling behind — and in terms of maintaining and building our transportation infrastructure, we are standing still. Over the past six years, the cost of everything has gone up, our city’s population has reached a record high of 8.49 million, our economic activity has increased 8% from 2010 levels. However, our ability to make long-term investments in our infrastructure has stalled. NYC isn’t just looking for help from Washington. We are doing our part. Over the past decade, we have increased our capital commitments by 50%. We plan to double our annual spending over the next two years to $1.2 billion.

But without a strong federal partner, maintaining existing infrastructure and preparing for the future will be virtually impossible. We would have to delay existing projects, such as the Bruckner Expressway bridge, imperil new ones, like the Woodhaven Bus Rapid Transit line, and create short-term fixes that are more expensive and less efficient than long-term solutions.

Mayors, business leaders and many others are making clear that our subways, buses, roads and bridges should not be divisive issues. We’re letting Congress know: We are stuck in a traffic jam that it created. All we need is some help to get us out of it.

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