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WW Update: lack of funding to close bridges

We drive over them every day expecting them to be safe. Yet dozens of bridges in Monroe County are braced with metal or even plywood. 60,000 cars a day travel over the Erie Canal in Perinton on a 60-year-old bridge that is partially supported underneath by wood.

A century old bridge on Marsh Road is not strong enough to carry fire trucks. Getting emergency equipment from the Bushnell's Basin Fire Hall across town now takes six to seven minutes longer. "If us or the ambulance can't get across the bridge for a heart attack or cardiac arrest- that significant brain damage," said Chief Greg Gluck. "For a fire with smoke inhalation- typically people would not survive those six to seven minutes."

One-third of all bridges in Monroe County need repairs. 54 bridges need them now. Yet repairs are on hold- while billions meant to pay for them is being diverted. Now comes word some bridges may be closed.

Gates Town Supervisor Mark Assini is on the Genesee Regional Transportation Council. "We are looking at what bridges we are going to prioritize funding for and keep them open and which ones down the road we are going to have to shut down," he said.

New York's Dedicated Highway Fund gets $3.8 billion dollars every year. In February, 13 Wham took a closer look at where the money was going. We learned only 22 percent is spent on actual repair work. In past years the rest has gone to salaries, phone bills, even to bottled water at the DOT.

It is also being diverted to pay down debt. Some of that is federal tax dollars given to the state. Assini, who is running for congress, says that money should come with strings attached. 'Our congressional delegation has to make sure our governor is spending the money in the right place because right now he is not."

Assini is challenging Congresswoman Louise Slaughter in this year's election. She agrees it's a problem. "My office has talked to the state DOT many times," she said. "We don't have a hands-off position by any means."

Yet she added: "The people who can put the pressure on to do that would be the state legislature," said Congresswoman Louise Slaughter. "I'm putting all the pressure on that I can in Washington."

Slaughter says she has worked hard to extend funding for roads and bridges which was supposed to expire next month. She supports legislation to bar companies from avoiding taxes by moving headquarters overseas- a move she says would raise about $19 billion dollars over 10 years for infrastructure repairs.

Ellen Smith is concerned enough about the bridges she drives on that she often takes photos of the undersides. "It's a huge concern," she said. "You see concrete falling off where cars have to pass underneath. Who is filling to risk their vehicle, their loved one?"

 
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