Tompkins County will receive $8.1 million to completely resurface Meadow and Fulton Street and extend their lifespans, due to a 10 percent increase in funding for New York’s Southern Tier as part of the 2024 state budget.
New York State Senator Lea Webb (D) announced the increase on Tuesday. The funds will be used to improve infrastructure and rural maintenance across the Southern Tier, with $27 million to refurbish highways, local roads, bridges, railroads and potholes across the region.
Infrastructure concerns across the Southern Tier have persisted over the last couple of years. The issue has prompted recent federal and state investments, such as 2021 $1.2 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Law — which includes investments in the Southern Tier — and the 2015 $500 million Upstate Revitalization Initiative.
Local elections, including Ithaca’s 2023 Common Council elections, have also made clear that constituents increasingly seek representatives who will address infrastructure issues, with the issue dominating the 2023 Ward 3 race. In addition, a 2022 poll conducted by Data for Progress found that 90 percent of New Yorkers support state action to address green energy infrastructure, which the state intends to be an increasing majority of all infrastructure projects by 2030.
Webb addressed infrastructure grievances in the budget announcement.
“Our highways, roads and bridges are crucial for connecting rural families across the Southern Tier. We all know the frustration of hitting potholes and taking detours, and the importance of arriving at our destination safely,” Webb said in a press release. “With this historic state funding, our community will have a significantly smoother and safer ride.”
The funds also aim to address the impacts of extreme weather on local residents and infrastructure, with $3 million dedicated to addressing extreme winter recovery funding.
The Southern Tier has been increasingly plagued by unusual weather as part of the globally changing climate. Just last year, for instance, thousands faced power outages across the Southern Tier due to storms and strong winds. According to the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, Ithaca is projected to face as high as six to seven heavy rain events and heat waves per year by the 2050s.
The issue of extreme weather was highlighted by Tompkins County Highway Director Jeffrey Smith.
“With the current freeze/thaw cycle common in present weather patterns, the timing of this funding could not be better,” Smith said in a press release. “Receiving this critical funding to maintain Southern Tier Roadways positively impacts every village/city/town and county roadways.”
The funds will be implemented beginning in the 2024-2025 fiscal year.