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Local Business, Government Leaders Share Infrastructure Priorities for Biden Plan

Courtesy New York State Department of Transportation

Central New York business, government and transportation leaders are telling Congressman John Katko (R-Camillus) what they’d like to see in an infrastructure bill.

President Joe Biden has outlined his own priorities in a $2 trillion plan, but Congress will ultimately decide just what to include and how much it’ll cost.  Oswego County Administrator Philip Church says it comes down to two words: Broadband and wastewater.

“We are starting up a county-wide citizen survey that will determine the needs in the rural and urban areas including the speeds that exist in those spots,” Church said. “Also, wastewater. We’ve done some studies that show we’ve got more water service than we do wastewater service, which of course presents a problem. But being a rural county, our local villages and towns can’t afford the infrastructure to put in wastewater.”

Business leaders say infrastructure goes hand in hand with the economy. Randy Wolken is President of the Manufacturers Association of Central New York, and is hopeful for the economic future of the region.

“We’re poised for dramatic growth, more projects than ever and more opportunities for work. One area is semiconductors and chip manufacturing,” he said. “We can see a huge growth in our region, but infrastructure is a huge need to be prepared and grow in the modern economy.”

But of course the most transformational project in decades will be the replacement for the I-81 viaduct through Syracuse. James D’Agostino is executive director of the Syracuse Metropolitan Transportation Council.  He says the impact can’t be underestimated.

“It’s so much money and has so much spinoff economic development in our community in addition to the transportation needs. It’s just huge and really needs that federal buy-in, and I think we can get that,” D’Agostino said.

The proposed community grid is estimated to cost about $2 billion, most of which would be covered by the federal government.  New York State has already set aside $800 million for the project.

In the end, Katko says he’s committed to a bipartisan bill that focuses on physical infrastructure such as the I-81 rebuild, water and sewer infrastructure, and broadband deployment.