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Another Voice: WNY needs to work together on infrastructure

By Carley J. Hill

I am the third generation in a heavy highway construction firm, located here in Western New York. The men and women of our company have been building the roads and bridges of this region for the past 65 years.

I represent Associated General Contractors as the Region 5 director and also co-chair the Fair Apportionment of Infrastructure Revenue Committee, which is a diverse organization of trades members, suppliers, engineers and contractors that fights to ensure our region receives its needs-based, fair share of infrastructure revenue.

There are key projects in both our urban and rural communities that are much needed and could easily be funded. But, like rain on a parade, the lack of confidence between various stakeholders, agencies, citizens and legislative leaders threatens to take the horsepower out of our resurgence engine.

Scajaquada Expressway redesign, Route 219 extension, Red House Bridge replacement, I-90/Silver Creek pavement reconstruction, Niagara Scenic Parkway reduction, Goat Island bridges, Niagara Falls infrastructure, I-90/I-290 congestion and Greenway/Shoreline Trail are just waiting in the wings.

When deciding whether or not to support these local infrastructure initiatives, we ask you to consider the following. “Not in my backyard” responses to significant projects have caused many an idea to wither on the vine. Projects come up in Region 5 year after year to no avail – they never find purchase in the inhospitable land of “Not my problem,” “We’re right and you’re wrong” or, worst of all, “It’s just too challenging.”

This lack of confidence perennially undermines our potential. Can trust be attained between varied groups? Can we cross county lines and figure out a way to work as one? Our leaders suggest they have confidence in us, but are they willing to mediate?

There is a unique balance between progress and perfection. If we get lost in that dim space between inception and realization, we will discover that our downstate counterparts will reap the rewards of our inaction. The available funding for infrastructure projects does not sit in a trust fund, nice and neat, year after year waiting for us to get our collective act together. It moves – like all dollars do – into the hands of action. Inception is the path of possibility, but it is action that lights the way.

Collective adaptation is key to our rebirth as a city and region. We strongly encourage the people of our community – from Allegany to Niagara Falls, from Jamestown to Akron Falls – to find a way to cut through the red tape. Find a way to sit down together and don’t put it off. No one wants to look back 30 years from now and think, “We could have done something.”

Bear in mind, no single answer is the perfect solution to all concerns. Life tests our ability to see a different perspective, to stop living in the past and understand that the future is found when we cooperate with each other today.

Carley J. Hill represents the Fair Apportionment of Infrastructure Revenue Committee and Union Concrete & Construction Corp.

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