Rep. John Katko talks to U.S. transportation secretary about central NY infrastructure, I-81 project



Article originally published here.

U.S. Rep. John Katko highlighted the importance of the Interstate 81 project in Syracuse during a call Wednesday with the country’s top transportation official.

Katko, R-Camillus, talked to U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx about the I-81 project and other central New York infrastructure needs. He also committed to supporting a long-term highway bill, which would finance bridge and road repairs throughout the country.

“I had the privilege of speaking directly with Secretary Foxx on local projects of importance, and I appreciate his willingness to learn more about the infrastructure needs of our region,” Katko said. “I am committed to providing a strong voice for central New York on local infrastructure projects — and especially on the reconstruction of Interstate 81.”

Katko, a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has made the I-81 project a top legislative priority.

The viaduct which runs through downtown Syracuse will reach the end of its useful life in 2017. The state Department of Transportation has unveiled a handful of proposals it will study to either rebuild or replace the elevated highway.

A boulevard is one of the options the state is reviewing. The agency is also exploring whether there is a viable tunnel option available.

The I-81 project will come with a significant price tag. The cost is expected to exceed $1 billion.

While local and state governments will play a role in funding the project, the federal government will likely pick up most of the costs.

“The I-81 reconstruction project is a once-in-a-generation decision that will shape our community’s infrastructure and economy for decades to come,” Katko said. “I expressed to Secretary Foxx the importance of getting this project right for central New York, and emphasized my willingness to be a partner for DOT.”

Foxx and Katko also discussed the need for a long-term highway bill. In recent months, Congress has passed two short-term extensions to fund bridge and road projects. The goal of the extensions was to provide congressional leaders with more time to negotiate a long-term deal.  Katko said he and Foxx are willing to work with members of both parties to secure an agreement on a long-term highway funding measure.

“I look forward to working with him as we move forward to produce a comprehensive bill,” he said.