ALBANY, N.Y. — New York state needs $27 billion to repair hundreds of aging, locally owned bridges, according to a new report from state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.
About half of the state’s 17,000 bridges are owned by local governments. Nearly 13 percent of these locally owned spans are considered structurally deficient. Some need repairs to allow them to carry heavier loads; others are prone to floods.
Many are more than half a century old; the average age of the 823 locally owned bridges in New York City is 75 years.
Failure to keep the bridges in good working order will jeopardize public safety and hamper efforts to boost the upstate economy, said DiNapoli, a Democrat. He said local, federal and state officials would have to work together to find the money for vital repairs.
“We have a long way to go and it’s very clear that our local governments, given the hefty price tag, cannot do the job on their own,” he said.
Specific bridges weren’t identified in the report, which looked instead at the health of the entire inventory of locally owned bridges. Typically, they are smaller structures that span creeks or gullies; in total they carry more than 33 million vehicles a day on average.
New York City had the highest number of structurally deficient local bridges, at 86, followed by Erie County, which had 52. The percentage of troubled bridges was highest in Seneca County, where more than one in three locally owned bridges is structurally deficient.
The report did have some good news: the number of structurally deficient bridges has declined overall since 2002, when more than 16 percent of locally owned bridges fell into the category.
DiNapoli said that while the state has tried to help local governments cover the cost of needed bridge work, the federal government will likely need to do more.
The state also faces billions of dollars of repairs and upgrades to local drinking water and sewer systems. DiNapoli said addressing all forms of aging infrastructure will be key to boosting the economy — especially in areas of upstate that have struggled to recover from decades of decline.
“We have to recognize that whether it’s a bridge, or a highway or water infrastructure, having infrastructure in good shape is key to our economy,” he said.
The report’s findings were first reported by The Associated Press on Monday. The report is set to be released by the comptroller’s office on Tuesday.