DURING FIRST MEETING WITH PRESIDENT-ELECT BIDEN’S DOT NOMINEE, PETE BUTTIGIEG, SCHUMER PUSHES FOR EXPANSION OF ROUTE 17; FOLLOWING DECADES OF ADVOCACY, SENATOR MAKES ROADWAY SAFETY, ALLEVIATING CONGESTION, AND HV ECONOMIC REVITALIZATION TOP PRIORITIES FOR NEW ADMINISTRATION & INCOMING TRANSPORTATION CHIEF
Schumer Has Pushed For Expansions Of Route 17 For Over A Decade, Citing Need For Improved Roadway To Handle Increased Traffic, Boost the Economy & Improve Safety
Senator Urges Federal Funding For Long-Overdue Infrastructure Expansion, Ensuring Road Safety & Hudson Valley Economic Revival Are Top Priorities For The Incoming Administration
Schumer To DOT Nominee Buttigieg: Expanding Rt. 17 Key To Maximizing Full Potential Of Region’s Economic Assets
Continuing his 15-year-long fight to expand Route 17 to improve the quality of life and economic well-being of the Hudson Valley, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer last week, in a virtual meeting with President-Elect Biden’s nominee for Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary, Pete Buttigieg, urged the nominee to prioritize federal infrastructure funding towards construction projects like the expansion of Route 17, all the way from Orange to Sullivan County. Schumer explained that not only would an infusion of funding help jumpstart economic revitalization in the Hudson Valley by creating good-paying jobs, but it would also help improve roadway safety and alleviate roadway congestion, especially with the pending completion and opening of the LEGOLAND New York resort as well as Amy’s Kitchen, both in Goshen.
“Expanding the vital artery of Route 17 to three lanes in Orange and Sullivan Counties is critical for the Hudson Valley’s long-term economic development and recovery after the devastation of the COVID pandemic. The traffic on Route 17 is bad enough now, and new projects are only going to increase the bottlenecks and delays,” said Senator Schumer. “By expanding this key route into Sullivan County, we can avoid greater traffic in Orange County and maximize the potential of the region’s assets by allowing businesses, workers, residents and visitors alike to freely access all there is to offer.”
Schumer added, “In order to improve that quality and constantly open up new opportunities for Hudson Valley jobs and economic drivers, we must overhaul the quality of our infrastructure. That is why I am calling to extend this expansion and urged nominee Buttigieg to make infrastructure funding for projects that promote regional and economic growth, like Route 17, a top priority for the new administration.”
“We thank Senator Schumer for pushing the U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary nominee, Pete Buttigieg, to prioritize federal infrastructure funding for the construction of a third lane on Route 17 in Orange and Sullivan counties. As the hundreds of local business and community organizations that make up our Coalition work to rebuild the Hudson Valley’s economy, this project is critically important to bring in commerce, enhance safety and alleviate the decades-long headaches caused by congestion along the Route 17 corridor,” said 17-Forward-86 Coalition co-chairs Maureen Halahan, president and CEO of the Orange County Partnership, and Marc Baez, president and CEO of the Sullivan County Partnership for Economic Development.
Schumer has pushed for the widening of the Route 17 corridor, which was being converted into Interstate 86 before the project was put on hold indefinitely, for years. Schumer has long been a proponent of a solution that would expand Route 17 to three lanes in each direction from Orange County to Sullivan County. In 2005, he secured $1 million in federal funds for New York State to study this proposal. In 2013, the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) announced that it had completed this Route 17 Transportation Corridor Study in order to examine the feasibility of expanding Route 17 to three lanes between Monticello’s Exit 103 (Rapp Road) and Harriman’s Exit 131 (New York State Thruway). The study noted that the existing congestion and delays on Route 17 would worsen over the near- and long-term, and that the volume of development along the corridor necessitates an additional lane/added capacity.
In 2015, the study’s Transportation Partnering Committee (TPC) recommended expanding the interstate to three lanes from Harriman in Orange County to Wallkill, located just west of Middletown in Orange County, but not all the way to Sullivan County. However, Schumer, understanding at the time that this move was approved before the construction of Resorts World Catskills and other major Sullivan Catskills-based projects, said that more vehicular traffic along Route 17 was expected and pushed for the expansion extending to Sullivan County. Schumer said the TPC committee estimated that there would be a 30 to 50 percent increase in traffic volume between 2015 and the year 2045, however this estimate was devised before the impact of economic drivers in Sullivan County were considered. In 2016, Schumer wrote to NYSDOT requesting that the agency use a portion of the $16.5 billion that he secured in the FAST Act for the expansion of Route 17.
Late last year, the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) heeded Schumer’s calls by including Sullivan County in its $5 million Planning and Environmental Linkage (PEL) study, which is needed to lay the groundwork at the state level for the construction and widening of Route 17. Schumer explained that the growth and pending popularity of destinations, such as LEGOLAND New York, will continue to bring thousands more commuters to Route 17 in the coming years. Schumer said that in order to avoid traffic bottlenecks in Orange and Sullivan Counties and to maximize the full potential of all of the region’s economic assets, including LEGOLAND, continuing the expansion of Route 17 all the way to Monticello is critical. According to the NYSDOT, the new PEL study will evaluate the engineering feasibility and potential environmental impacts of reasonable alternatives to address the corridor’s transportation needs, such as the earlier study recommendations to add a general use third lane in each direction and improve key interchanges in both counties. The study is expected to take 18-months.
The senator said that the PEL study must be a collaborative approach to transportation decision-making, informing the federal National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process. Early environmental and planning screening, and stakeholder input from coalitions like 17-Forward-86 – which includes roughly 200 economic development groups, community organizations, unions, tourism groups and more - will require less duplication of effort later for the project’s required federal approvals, he said. Pledging to continue his support of this critical artery in Orange and Sullivan Counties, Schumer said that, as the region looks to recover from the COVID pandemic in the coming years, infrastructure will be core to creating good-paying jobs and boosting the Hudson Valley’s economy. That is why Schumer urged nominee Buttigieg to support infrastructure stimulus funding for projects like the three-lane expansion of Route 17 from Orange to Sullivan County.
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