For a long time, I have found myself wondering about a simple question: how much do we spend every year on our roads and bridges? Is it a lot? Is it not very much? Essentially: are we putting our tax dollars to work in the best way we can when it comes to securing and enhancing our mobility?
In the back of my brain was the suspicion that if I knew the answer to my question, I might feel unhappy. Or even angry. Compared to all of the things in our world that need our attention, and our tax dollars, things like education and health care and social equity and our courts and our environment and our resilience, perhaps our spending on further enabling cars might be, well, out of proportion. Does the money we spend assist our present and assure our future, I ask?
And so I have spent time trying to figure out what we in Monroe County, New York spend annually on our transportation costs. Just Monroe County. Here goes.
It is fairly simple to discover the Federal part of this total. The Federal allotments to our region are quite clearly laid out and available, thanks to the Genesee Transportation Council, our MPO (Metropolitan Planning Organization) legally charged with overseeing our transportation health. The answer: well, it varies, depending on which of our Federal Highways we are repairing, but generally the number runs to about $150,000,000 per year.
And now the plot thickens. The rest of the funding for our mobility in Monroe County comes from the State of New York, Monroe County, and all of the municipalities within the county’s boundaries.
The State of New York budget for transportation runs to about $11 billion, and there are 11 regions in the state. We are Region 4. As near as I am able to determine, we see something near $65,000,000 in annual spending.
In Monroe County, the transportation budget is pegged at $62,000,000. Aviation is a separate budget at $21,000,000.
Taking apart all of the municipal budgets to discover each of their line items and coming up with some form of total is a scholastic exercise. Taken all together, and spread across all of the towns, cities and villages of the county, seems like it comes up to about $100,000,000.
So if we add up the Feds, the State, the County and the locals we come up with an annual budget of $377,000,000 without aviation, or $398,000,000 with aviation.
As a side note, the budget for our public transportation system, RTS, is $81,000,000 – about a fifth of what we spend for our cars and trucks.
So. In the end, the annual spending in our county for transportation is just a bit shy of $400,000,000.
And as I did my research and read many budget summaries from the State and elsewhere, most budgeteers suggest that this number is absolutely not sufficient to maintain our existing infrastructure.
Nearly half a billion dollars every year is a lot of money. And we are told it is not enough. Let’s see – if we need more money for our vehicles, what shall we not do? Something for our children? Our health? Our future? Or maybe we should not fix some things – leave some bridges to fail, or some roads to become impassable.
Should be an interesting New Year….