Critics: Federal highway bill needs to go further

Members of the LI Contractors Association hope lawmakers will find more funding and recognize the need for infrastructure.

Members of the LI Contractors Association hope lawmakers will find more funding and recognize the need for infrastructure. (11/6/15)

LINDENHURST - The House of Representatives has approved a transportation bill that includes more than $260 billion for the nation's highways, but Long Island bridge and road builders say it's not enough.

The bill authorizes spending through the 2021 federal budget year, including an estimated $30 million for Long Island. However, it provides money for only the first three years because lawmakers couldn't agree on a way to pay for it all. At least $400 billion over six years is needed to prevent traffic congestion across the country from getting worse, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx has said.

Marc Herbst, of the LI Contractors Association, agrees. He says that while the group is glad to see funding for the next three years, something needs to be done to ensure roads and infrastructure get the attention they need.

Herbst says they are hopeful that during the negotiations with the Senate, lawmakers will find more funding, although he says their plans involve just "patching up" instead of rebuilding any infrastructure.

"Everything is turned into a maintenance program, so what they're doing now is just pothole repairs," says Herbst.

According to Herbst, nearly half of the bridges on Long Island need to be replaced and repaired.  He says that with the money they are guaranteed, they can begin on projects like widening the Sagtikos Parkway and completing Route 347.

"Did we get everything we want? No, but this is a step in the right direction," says Herbst.

The U.S. Senate Highway Bill contains $80 billion more than the House bill for infrastructure improvements, and is expected to pass and be reconciled with the House version in the next few weeks. 

AP wire services contributed to this report.

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