Infrastructure Week - a national week of attention dedicated to elevating infrastructure as a critical issue impacting everyone - is this week.
In Syracuse, improving infrastructure is one of Mayor Miner’s top priorities, and if you have followed this blog, you will know that the innovation team has focused its efforts on infrastructure for more than a year. Our infrastructure report, detailing the work done so far, is available here.
The theme for Infrastructure Week this year is #TimeToBuild. Infrastructure is in the news often, from smart cities to autonomous vehicles to billions of dollars in this year’s New York State budget dedicated to infrastructure and a potential trillion dollar federal infrastructure bill. It is exciting to think about how these changes might affect Syracuse - some have started already with Centerstate CEO’s focus on building the economy of Central New York on unmanned aerial systems.
Building is fun, but as we know here, it is the maintenance and planning that is important in the long term. With hundreds of water main breaks each year and thousands of potholes to fill, the existing infrastructure is coming to the end of its useful life. A failure in the past to maintain and replace infrastructure systems has put much of the country in crisis mode when it comes to dealing with roads and pipes.
We have taken the approach of using data and technology to help prioritize where infrastructure repairs should happen, while also opening communication channels to ensure all departments are on the same page before construction starts on any road. That means using advanced analytic methods to determine which water main is the most at risk of breaking, then taking that information, along with information about road and sewer quality, and planning projects where the road is opened once so all infrastructure can be replaced.
Three Dig Once projects happened last year, and the City saved more than $400,000 thanks to better data and analysis about the systems as well as more proactive planning. Before any road is repaved, departments check to make sure sewers and water mains are in good condition to reduce the risk that a new road will be destroyed due to a sewer collapse or water main break.
These efforts make infrastructure work more efficient, and ensure that any dollar put toward infrastructure work is spent efficiently and with a thought to the long-term maintenance of the system. But our infrastructure extends beyond the roads and pipes we traditionally think of, too.
Our City’s housing stock is an integral piece of our infrastructure system, and as we move to our economic opportunity work we are looking into the maintenance of our housing as well. Our housing stock in Syracuse is old, with almost 91% having been built before 1979. Homes of this age are expensive to maintain. With a 14.1% vacancy rate in the City and many houses in states of disrepair, much of the onus of maintenance falls on the City’s Division of Code Enforcement. A key tool to helping the City tackle this challenge has been the establishment of the Greater Syracuse Land Bank.
As a Syracuse.com editorial recently pointed out, since it’s inception, the Land Bank “has acquired 1,324 tax-delinquent properties, sold 440 of them, demolished 175 blighted properties, attracted more than $17 million in private investment and collected an extra $11 million in once-delinquent property taxes.” It is one of Syracuse’s success stories, and a necessary piece to maintaining our housing infrastructure.
We’ll have more on the Land Bank later this week. As we think about building during this Infrastructure Week, we’re ensuring that we are maintaining, too.