Full funding for the MTA capital program and a robust New York City capital budget are the top policy priorities for the New York Building Congress in 2015.
The Building Congress 2015 Policy Agenda is part of the Building Congress Infrastructure Campaign, an effort to focus public attention on the need for intelligent investment in core assets like mass transit, roads, and schools, while urging government to improve procurement practices.
Closing the MTA's yawning capital budget gap is the top priority for the Building Congress at the State level. The MTA's proposed 2015-2019 capital program has a $32 billion price tag, but faces a $15 billion funding shortfall, which will have to be closed with the help of the Governor and the State Legislature. The Department of Transportation is also facing a significant capital funding hole, although details on its five-year plan have not been released. Talks on funding are not expected to begin until later this year.
The State Agenda also calls for passage of legislation allowing design-build and public-private partnerships (P3s), both of which encourage innovative financing and management of major infrastructure projects. Last week the Governor signed legislation reauthorizing certain state agencies to use design-build procurement for two years. However, local governments and a broader array of State government agencies are excluded.
The Building Congress is also working with other statewide design and construction associations to pass legislation creating protections for contractors responding to government-declared emergencies. The "Emergency Responder Act" would shield contractors assisting during recovery efforts such as 9/11 and Superstorm Sandy from debilitating liability claims.
At the City level, ensuring a robust capital budget remains the top priority for the Building Congress. While the City's preliminary capital budget appears to continue the strong investments in infrastructure made over the last decade, the Building Congress will scrutinize individual agency budgets to make sure resources are allocated to key areas, like schools, roads, and water and sewer infrastructure. The Building Congress continues to meet with individual City Council members to emphasize the importance of the City's capital budget.
In addition to seeking new money for infrastructure, the Building Congress urges the City to continue to improve its capital project management, citing the State's precedent-setting work bringing the Tappan Zee Bridge reconstruction project into construction, and its success using design-build procurement.
The City also has direct oversight of several large-scale development initiatives, including the proposed East Midtown Rezoning. The Building Congress is urging the City to complete the rezoning, which will allow developers to modernize the aging commercial office stock in the City's core business district.
In addition, both the City and the State are urged to act decisively to bring new trans-Hudson rail capacity into Manhattan. The Far West Side of Manhattan is quickly growing, adding millions of square feet of new mixed-use development, while rail connections have not changed in more than a century. Adding urgency to this project is the fact that the existing two-track tunnel was inundated by saltwater during Superstorm Sandy, causing damage that will require an extended closure to repair. The impact of such a closure on commuters between New Jersey and Manhattan would be unprecedented, impacting travel around the region, unless new tunnels are constructed beforehand to ensure service.
Building Congress President Richard T. Anderson said, "Despite a growing recognition at all levels of government that maintaining and expanding public facilities to address population growth, climate change, and economic competition is an imperative, today we are barely treading water. The Building Congress Policy Agenda enumerates key steps City and State officials should take to move the City forward and ensure it is competitive in the future. We will be working closely with government leaders in the coming months to make sure these priorities are considered."
What you can do:
Contact the Governor and leadership of the New York State Senate and Assembly, urging them to act to adequately fund transportation and support other key building industry priorities.
Contact the Mayor and the Speaker of the New York City Council, urging a strong capital program for New York City and more support for the MTA capital program.
The full Building Congress Policy Agenda is available here.
The New York Building Congress is a non-partisan, public policy coalition of business, labor, professional, and governmental organizations serving the design, construction, and real estate industry. More information on policies, programs, and events is available at www.buildingcongress.com.