Over the past twelve months, we’ve taken important steps to turn Rockland County’s economy around. In February, I ordered a series of aggressive cost-saving measures, reduced spending and restricted hiring. In July, Moody’s Investors Service upgraded Rockland’s credit rating, citing “significant improvement in the County’s management and budgeting practices.” In December, the Legislature took my lead and approved a 2015 Budget that holds to the state’s two-percent tax cap. But, as too many in Rockland County know, we still have a long way to go.
As we start 2015, my administration is taking a series of additional steps to help ensure our economic prosperity, now and in the future. Creating a sound and modern infrastructure will play a key role in keeping Rockland County moving forward.
While there’s no doubt that Rockland County’s landscape is rich in history, we desperately need a modern transportation system that moves people and goods safely, reliably and efficiently to increase productivity and our quality of life. We need water and sewer systems that support and protect Rockland’s environment and natural resources. We need to make certain powerful storms like Floyd, Irene and Sandy don’t ravage our homes and businesses in the future.
Just today, I visited the County’s new bridge on Oak Tree Road in Orangetown. The granite-faced, two-lane span replaces a 77-year-old bridge over Sparkill Creek. This $2.4 million project – completed ahead of schedule and under budget – is a prime example of the infrastructure investment to come in Rockland County. Highway Superintendent Skip Vezzetti has seven major projects queued up for 2015:
• Montebello: Replacement of the Montebello Road Bridge, which has been closed to traffic since 2011
• Orangeburg: Replacement of the Orangeburg Road Bridge, which spans the CSX railroad tracks
• West Haverstraw: Replacement of the vehicle bridge on Samsondale Avenue, which crosses the CSX tracks
• Thiells: Suffern Lane intersection reconstruction at Hammond Road and Thiells-Mount Ivy Road
• Ramapo: Forshay Road drainage and pavement improvement project
• Ramapo: Call Hollow Road drainage and pavement improvement project
• Grand View-on-Hudson: River Road drainage and pavement improvement project
Other major Highway Department projects awaiting funding and/or approvals include improvements to the Spook Rock Road dam and bridge in Ramapo, Congers Road reconstruction in New City and West Washington Avenue enhancements in Pearl River.
We have a responsibility to ourselves and to future generations to maintain and improve the roads, bridges and sewer systems that previous generations built for us. It is a responsibility we cannot ignore or postpone. Waiting will cost us three to four times the amount of taxpayer money. In simple terms, it’s less expensive and more cost-effective to enhance our infrastructure now than to wait until it needs to be completely rebuilt.
As the majority of our projects involve state dollars, I have called upon Governor Cuomo to use a portion of the approximately $5 billion that the state received in settlements with BNP Paribas SA and Credit Suisse Group AG over economic and tax improprieties to help pay for local infrastructure projects, including the new Tappan Zee Bridge. Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus and even State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli all support the spending of bank settlement funds on roads and bridges. Creating a statewide “infrastructure bank” with that windfall will guarantee the money is spent wisely. We must insist on value for our money.
I ask your help to make significant new investments in Rockland’s roads and bridges, but not as we have done in the past. Business as usual – doing things the way they have always been done and expecting different results – is not the road to economic renaissance. Contact Governor Cuomo and your state representatives – urge them to make local infrastructure funding a priority.
It’s time to fix the roads in Rockland County. We have grown tired of dodging potholes. We’re fed up with getting socked with auto repair bills because of underinvestment in our aging infrastructure. To achieve our full potential, we need a modern infrastructure that keeps families safe and invites investment from job creators.
Reinventing Rockland County means spending money wisely on our roads, bridges, sewers and sidewalks that allow us to work, play and live in our beautiful county. We cannot reinvent Rockland County without first shoring up its foundation.