ALBANY -- Bridges owned by New York’s local governments need a whopping $27 billion in repairs, a report Tuesday said.
Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said his findings show municipalities face "staggering" needs to repairs its bridges.
Three quarter of repairs are in New York City: $20.4 billion of the $27.4 billion estimated for all local bridges.
The report found some good news: The number of “structurally deficient” locally-owned bridges has declined in recent years.
Nonetheless, the report comes at a time of uncertainty for state and local governments as Congress and President Trump consider changes to infrastructure aid.
“Local communities are facing a big price tag for maintaining and repairing bridges,” DiNapoli said in a statement. “These structures are aging and the cost for repairs will likely only increase over time."
Local governments, mostly counties, own 8,834 out of 17,462 bridges in New York, carrying average daily traffic of 33 million vehicles.
It has 610 bridges, the report said, and they are among the most trafficked outside New York City. But it had just 59 "structurally deficient" bridges, or 10 percent of its inventory, the report found.
Counties with the highest percentage of structurally deficient local bridges were three small counties: Seneca at 35 percent, Cayuga at 28 percent and Hamilton at 24 percent. Ontario County ranked low with just 8 percent of its bridges in the category.
The highest number of "structurally deficient" local bridges were located in New York City at 86, followed by the counties of Erie at 52; Ulster at 46 and Steuben at 40.
Overall, nearly 13 percent of locally-owned bridges are labeled "structurally deficient" compared to 9 percent of state-owned bridges, the report found.
The worst were town-owned bridges, with 18 percent of them to be structurally deficient.
A “structurally deficient” bridge -- a federal label -- means it is still safe to drive on, but have load-bearing elements in poor condition or are prone to repeated flooding.
Still, the number of bridges in the category has dropped from 17 percent since 2002, the report said.
In the category of "functionally obsolete” bridges -- those that are not structurally unsound, but do not meet current design standards -- the mid-Hudson Valley had the third most at 27 percent of them, behind the city and Long Island.
The cost to repair local bridges is just a piece of the statewide repairs needed, DiNapoli noted.
With nearly 17,500 highway bridges in New York, the needed repairs total $75 billion when state-owned bridges are included, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration National Bridge Inventory.
DiNapoli said municipalities face financial challenges to fund bridge repairs because they are generally responsible for the upkeep, but can get state and federal aid.
The problem, he said, is that state aid for some infrastructure programs has remained flat in recent year, though the state last year created the BRIDGE NY program that provided $200 million to fund 132 local bridges and culvert projects.
The Federal Highway Administration can also cover up to 80 percent of eligible costs for bridge repairs, leaving the state and local governments to come up with rest.
There are also emergency-relief funding if bridges are damaged in major storms.
In the Western New York region alone, local governments would need to find more than $1 billion to repair all of their bridges. Much of that burden would fall on counties.
Joseph Lorigo, the Erie County Legislature's Majority Leader, read the report on Tuesday afternoon and called for a boost in infrastructure funding in the county's 2018 budget.
"It's gonna take money. But that's the money that helps create jobs, that helps grows the economy," Lorigo said. "That's where we need to be investing our money."
The county has indeed spent millions of dollars repairing bridges over the past few years. Some bridge replacement projects can cost more than $2 billion per bridge, according to the county's Department of Public Works commissioner. In April, the county executive released a list of 2017 projects.
© Gannett Co., Inc. 2017. All Rights Reserved