For those old enough to remember, it hardly seems like 30 years have passed since the Thruway bridge over Schoharie Creek near Amsterdam collapsed, sending vehicles plunging into the raging river below. Ten people died.

The cause of the collapse was determined to be failure to properly design, build and maintain the bridge. Built in the 1950s, the bridge's supports had concrete footings dug 6 feet into the riverbed, instead of piles driven into the bedrock needed because the riverbed soil was vulnerable to washing away.

That one horrific incident is why a report released earlier this week by New York state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli cannot be ignored.

The report states that New York state needs $27 billion to repair hundreds of aging, locally owned bridges. About half of the state's 17,000 bridges are owned by local governments, and nearly 13 percent of them are considered structurally deficient. Some need repairs to allow them to carry heavier loads; others are prone to floods, the report said. Many are more than half a century old.

Failure to keep the bridges in good working order will jeopardize public safety and hamper efforts to boost the upstate economy, said DiNapoli. He said local, state and federal officials would have to work together to find the money for vital repairs.

"We have a long way to go and it's very clear that our local governments, given the hefty price tag, cannot do the job on their own," he said.

DiNapoli's report comes just six months after a report from the American Society of Civil Engineers that gave the quality of U.S. roads, bridges and other infrastructure a lowly D-plus after evaluating 16 categories of infrastructure it found to be “in fair to poor condition and mostly below standard, with many elements approaching the end of their service life.”

“We need our elected leaders — those who pledged to rebuild our infrastructure while on the campaign trail — to follow through on those promises with investment and innovative solutions that will ensure our infrastructure is built for the future,” Norma Jean Mattei, ASCE president, said.

Specific bridges in DiNapoli's report weren't identified, but typically they are smaller structures that span creeks or gullies. In total they carry more than 33 million vehicles a day on average, and one collapse would be one too many.

Fatalities or injuries as a result of a collapse certainly is of prime concern. Also consider the inconvenience of losing a link in the local transportation network should a bridge be out of commission. 

New York City had the highest number of structurally deficient local bridges - 86 - followed by Erie County at 52. The percentage of troubled bridges was highest in Seneca County, where more than one in three locally owned bridges is structurally deficient.

In Oneida County, the report listed 28 of 220 or 12.7 percent, as structurally deficient. Herkimer County has 10 of 116 or 8.6 percent; Madison County, 16 of 113 or 14.2 percent; Lewis County, 28 of 120 or 23.3 percent, and Hamilton County, 10 of 42 or 23.8 percent.

The report noted that local bridges upstate tend to be newer; however, the average age for an upstate bridge is 44 years. In the I-90 Corridor (comprising the Capital, Central New York, Finger Lakes, and Mohawk Valley regions), the average age for local bridges is 48 years. In the North Country, it is 45 years. The Southern Tier and Western New York regions (combined for this analysis) have the newest local bridges, with an average age of 41 years.

The report did have some good news: the number of structurally deficient bridges has declined overall since 2002, when more than 16 percent of locally owned bridges fell into the category.

Part of the reason for that likely is the aggressive effort by the state DOT to routinely inspect area bridges and rehabilitate or replace them when warranted. Region 2 DOT spokesman Jim Piccola said all bridges are inspected every two years and if one comes in with a score less than 4 (out of 7) or has been flagged it will be inspected every year or more frequently if needed.

Piccola provided an extensive list of area bridge projects scheduled or under way in Region 2's six-county area, which includes Oneida, Herkimer, Madison, Hamilton, Fulton and Montgomery counties. Many are slated for rehabilitation or replacement over the next several years.

The big question is: Who will pay?

Municipalities are generally responsible for the costs of their locally owned bridges, but they generally receive assistance from the state and federal government. In 2016, the state created the BRIDGE NY program to support local bridges and culverts, and as of January, the state Department of Transportation had awarded $200.4 million to fund 132 local bridge and culvert projects statewide. The federal government also provides aid for local bridge projects, primarily through Federal Highway Administration programs. 

Earlier this year, President Trump talked about a $1 trillion initiative to rebuild the nation's roads, tunnels and bridges. But he has yet to offer a plan. And despite bipartisan support for infrastructure spending, no one is quite sure where the money would come from.

Whatever unfolds, it's an issue that we cannot ignore. It's also one that we must be willing to pay for, because there's little argument that our infrastructure has worn out its welcome.