April 2006

am•bi´tious adj.

1. demanding great effort.

That’s the word Republican State Sen. Thomas Libous used recently in an Associated Press (AP) story when defining the New York State Association of Town Superintendents of Highway’s request that the state legislature boost CHIPS funding by $100 million over the next four years.

According to the AP, approximately 38 percent of the state’s county and town-owned bridges are listed as structurally deficient, in need of work but not in danger of imminent collapse. The national deficiency rate is 28 percent.

These statistics coincide with others that reveal traffic has increased in New York State by 19 percent from 1995 to 2004, according to Terrence Rice, director of the Monroe County Department of Transportation.

Libous, who is chairman of the Senate’s Transportation Committee, said that he would grade the state’s local road system, which stretches for more than 97,000 mi. and includes more than 9,000 bridges, with a “C.”

Politics is frequently marked by the abstract, so let’s look at this situation in a more tangible, real-life scenario. If we were still in school and received a “C” on our report card, to get an “A,” how much effort would it take to achieve it? A little bit? Or would it take quite a bit of extra time and work?

I realize that I’m preaching to the choir here, but what we really need to do in concert with lobbying our state and federal governments is to preach to the public at large.

The national media will not like to discuss infrastructure (unless, of course, a bridge collapses and then they’re all over it) because apparently it doesn’t think it will sell ad space or time. So we can’t count on them.

But the public has the power to ultimately determine whether or not roads and bridges receive the necessary funding because they, en masse, can apply the pressure on elected officials of any party affiliation.

Taking this case to the public would be an ambitious undertaking, but anything worthwhile demands a great effort. P

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