01.16.15

SCHUMER CALLS FOR PLANNED EXPANSION OF ROUTE 17 TO BE EXTENDED ALL THE WAY TO MONTICELLO – WITH MAJOR INCREASE IN TRAFFIC EXPECTED DUE TO NEW CASINO, STOPPING RT. 17 EXPANSION IN WALLKILL DOES NOT MAKE SENSE; PLEDGES TO MAKE PASSING MAJOR INFRASTRUCTURE BILL A TOP PRIORITY

Following Completion of Schumer-Secured Study, NYSDOT Approved Plan To Expand Rt. 17 From Two Lanes to Three, in Both Directions, from Harriman to Wallkill – But Plan Was Approved Before Casino Placement Was Decided; Schumer Says With New Sullivan Casino Set To Become A Reality, Existing Bottleneck and Congestion Will Only Worsen and Expansion Should Be Extended All The Way To Monticello

Expanding Rt. 17 Has Been A Major Schumer Priority for Years; Extending Rt. 17 Expansion Into Sullivan County Will Require Mix of Fed Infrastructure Funds, As Well As Funds From NYSDOT & Developer – Schumer Pushes For Enhanced Fed Infrastructure Bill To Help Cover Costs; Says Expansion of Rt. 17 is Prime Example of National Infrastructure Needs

 

Schumer: Expanding Rt. 17 Into Sullivan County Key To Avoiding Traffic in Orange County & Maximizing Full Potential of All The Region’s Economic Assets

 

Today, at Matthews Street Park and Ride in Goshen, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer called for the planned expansion of Route 17 from Harriman to Wallkill to be extended into Sullivan County, all the way to Monticello. Schumer said that with construction of a new casino in Sullivan County set to begin, more vehicular traffic along Route 17 is expected. The current plan proposed by the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) is to expand Route 17 from two lanes to three, in both directions, but the expansion would not extend into Sullivan County, even though the need for more lanes is now greater than ever before. Schumer said that in order to avoid traffic bottlenecks in Orange County and to maximize the full potential of all of the region’s economic assets, revising the plan and continuing the expansion of Route 17 all the way to Monticello is critical. Schumer noted that he has long been a proponent of Route 17 expansion efforts, and in 2005 he secured federal funds to study various options. Schumer said that in order to extend the expansion into Sullivan County, a mix of federal, state and private funds will be needed. Therefore, Schumer announced that he will be pushing to pass a large infrastructure bill in this Congress, because it would help pump federal money into projects like the Route 17 expansion that are critical for economic development.

 

“Expanding this vital artery of Route 17 to three lanes between Harriman in Orange County to Monticello in Sullivan County is critical for the Hudson Valley’s long-term economic development and growth. The traffic on Route 17 is bad enough now, and a new casino would only increase the bottlenecks and delays. 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,” said Schumer. “We can all agree that our highways, bridges, and roads serve as the backbone of our economy, and our long-term economic outlook depends on the quality of our infrastructure. In order to improve that quality and constantly open up new opportunities, we must literally build, build, build. That is why I am calling to extend this expansion and urging my colleagues in Congress to pass a long-term infrastructure bill that will pump federal funds into worthwhile projects like the Route 17 expansion that are so crucial to regional and economic growth.”

 

Schumer has pushed for the widening of the Route 17 highway, which is being converted into Interstate 86, for years. Schumer has long been a proponent of a solution that would expand the highway to three lanes in each direction from Harriman in Orange County to Monticello in 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 and Harriman’s Exit 131. Recently, 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 Monticello. However, Schumer noted today, this move was approved before the recent casino placement was decided in New York State. Schumer said that with construction of a new casino in Sullivan County set to begin, more vehicular traffic along Route 17 is expected. In addition to casino development, other projects, including the growth and popularity of destinations such as Bethel Woods and Woodbury Commons, have brought thousands more commuters to Route 17. 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 the new casino, revising the plan and continuing the expansion of Route 17 all the way to Monticello is critical.

 

Schumer said the TPC committee estimated that there would be a 30 to 50 percent increase in traffic volume between now and the year 2045, however this estimate was devised before the impact of a casino in Sullivan County was considered. Schumer said that two lanes are not enough to support such growth and travel between the two counties. That is why he is urging that the planned three-lane expansion of Route 17 from Harriman to Wallkill to be extended into Sullivan County, all the way to Monticello. The new Sullivan County casino, the Montreign Resort Casino at Adelaar, is expected to open in 2017 at the old 1,700-acre Concord Resort in Monticello.

 

Schumer said that to pay for this major infrastructure project, a mix of federal, state and private funds will be needed, and Schumer announced that he will be pushing to secure more federal funds through his efforts to pass a large infrastructure bill in this Congress. The Highway Trust Fund is set to run out of money in May and legislation will be needed to replenish it. The Highway Trust Fund is a significant source of federal money that is allocated to states to help fund highway and mass transit construction projects. Schumer said that the upcoming expiration of the fund provides a significant opportunity to pass major infrastructure legislation that does not just replenish the fund at the same level as before, but actually increases the amount of funding available for states like New York to invest in major infrastructure projects like Route 17.

 

Schumer said he will work to secure as much funding as possible for the Highway Trust Fund, so New York can begin to make the investments needed to repair and upgrade roads, bridges, and transit systems across the state. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) estimates that, if current federal funding levels for infrastructure are maintained, the costs to the economy of congestion and delays will rise from $34 billion in 2020 to $63 billion by 2040. According to a Duke Center on Globalization, Governance & Competitiveness report, each $1 billion invested in transportation infrastructure creates 21,671 jobs. Every dollar invested in transportation infrastructure returns $3.54 in economic impact. Schumer said these statistics are clear examples of why he will work to pass a strong infrastructure bill in this Congress and why extending the Route 17 expansion into Sullivan County is critical for the area’s economy.

 

Schumer was joined by officials from Orange County and Sullivan County.

 

“The expansion of Route 17 can help reduce traffic impacts and must be prioritized now that a casino location has been secured. For the sake of Orange County residents, let's begin the process today,” said Steve Neuhaus, Orange County Executive.

 

“For decades, we have fought for a casino in Sullivan County.  Now that we are realizing that goal, it’s more important than ever that we have the infrastructure to support the influx of new visitors to the region,” said Aileen M. Gunther, New York State Assemblymember. “I appreciate Senator Schumer’s efforts to advance transportation priorities to ensure that visitors to Sullivan and Orange Counties have every opportunity to enjoy the wealth of tourism experiences we have to offer.” 

 

“I stand with Senator Schumer and local officials in calling on our state and federal governments to finally address the long-overdue issue of widening Route 17. This improvement, along with the Exit 131 interchange, is critical in light of the casino siting in Sullivan County and cannot wait any longer; any discussion revolving around investing in our infrastructure must include the Route 17 project,” said James Skoufis, New York State Assemblymember.

 



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