ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — This week on Empire State Weekly, now that the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is signed into law, billions of dollars are heading to New York State to make long-lasting changes that will improve how New Yorkers travel, communicate, as well as enhance the overall health of the state from the ground up.

According to the Business Council of New York State, more than $13 billion will go towards roads and highway funding, with another $2 billion being made available for bridge replacement and repairs over the next 5 years, to renovate 1,700 New York bridges in poor condition. More than 7,300 miles of highway in New York State are in dire need of repairs. Provisions in the Infrastructure bill will give the State more flexibility in choosing how to use those funds, in order to make critical improvements to protect bridges, tunnels, and highways against future damage from weather-related events and other natural disasters.

Some of the road-related projects that have already been announced which will receive funding include major highways like the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, the Cross Bronx Expressway, the Broadway Junction Station Complex in Brooklyn, and replacing the current two-way Memorial Highway in the City of New Rochelle. While this may appear that the New York City area is being prioritized in road funding, there is still a lot of that money that has yet to be allocated. For example, the Capital District Transportation Committee will meet on Tuesday, December 2, to discuss how money from the Infrastructure bill will be used for counties including Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga, and Schenectady. Similar meetings are taking place in other regions of New York State.

To give more insight into how State agencies will be dividing funds from the federal Infrastructure bill, we hear from Lev Ginsburg, the Senior Director of Government Affairs for the Business Council of New York State. According to Ginsburg, while money is already set to address road repairs in the Metropolitan area, the Council is hopeful that the State will equally prioritize projects in Upstate and Western New York counties. Ginsburg goes on to say that State officials should make the time and resources available to tackle areas of concern beyond repairing roads and revamping New York’s airports.

“You know there are still some areas of the State like 4 or 5% of the state that actually don’t have access to high-speed broadband,” says Ginsburg. “The State of New York has been pretty difficult about forcing the hand of companies to do a lot of this work on their own. We’re hopeful that with some infrastructure money it will be easier to get internet to everyone who needs high-speed internet and other projects that we don’t think of every day.”

Dr. Rebecca Watts, Northeast Regional Vice President of Western Governors’ University joins us to speak further on bridging New York’s digital divide. $100 million in funding from the Infrastructure bill will go towards providing broadband coverage statewide. Dr. Watts says this problem affects students, older adults, individuals of color, and lower-income people in rural and urban areas.

“In the more Northern regions of the State, and in the more rural areas, there simply just isn’t the infrastructure needed to be able to provide high-speed internet broadband access to every home in those counties,” says Dr. Watts. Online learning has taken on a massive role since the pandemic first began, and according to Dr. Watts, if students in these rural areas did not have proper internet access, they were shut out of learning. “It not only impedes the growth and the driving of that individual, but their family, their community, employers, and the entire economics of the State.”

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