Rep. Dan Maffei (D-Syracuse) has put together a wide-ranging program that would invest in central New York’s infrastructure, ranging from fixing crumbling roads and bridges to bringing high speed rail to the area. He says there has to be a mindset change in Washington for this to happen.
Maffei’s plan would modernize roads and bridges, upgrade Hancock Airport and the Port of Oswego, bring high speed rail to the region and invest in water and sewer systems, as well as high-speed Internet. It’s an ambitious six-year plan, and Maffei admits parts are a tough sell, in part because this kind of spending is lumped in with all the other federal spending.
He says it should be looked at as an investment, because there will be an economic payback down the road.
"Until we understand that infrastructure is different, that it’s an investment, that it pays off dividends, we are not going to see the amount of resources that we need,” Maffei said.
Part of the congressman's plan would also create a penalty box for contractors that consistently go over budget and miss federal contract deadlines.
“Because of the lowest bidder rule, a lot of times contractors will be able to win additional federal contracts even after they come in late or over budget or all these things," Maffei explained. "So we really need this penalty box to keep that out.”
He announced the plan at the Erie Canal Museum, to help emphasize that an intermodal canal corridor can do now what it did two centuries ago; become a hub for distributing goods and services from the East Coast to the Midwest.
"In may ways, central New York is hitting a glass ceiling because of its failing infrastructure," Maffei said. "Until we fix that infrastructure, until we address that infrastructure, we’re never going to be able to realize the kind of economic growth that we otherwise could.”
Maffei sees a day when products could be shipped to central New York from the East Coast.
“It could be sorted out at an inland port in East Syracuse for instance," Maffei explained. "Some would go on other rail to the west. Some would go on trucks and some would go up to the Port of Oswego, and go on lake-going vessels to the west, and some would go on airplanes. Hancock Airport, for example, has room to expand and do more freight than it’s doing now.”
Maffei says this is the time to do it because of the widening of the Panama Canal, which will mean more goods flowing through the East Coast.