07.03.18

SCHUMER: EISENHOWER LOCK VISITORS’ CENTER ON THE SAINT LAWRENCE SEAWAY IS FALLING APART AT THE SEAMS; CALLS FOR KEY INVESTMENTS IN INFRASTRUCTURE UPGRADES; SENATOR SAYS EISENHOWER VISITORS’ CENTER IS TOO IMPORTANT TO NORTH COUNTRY ECONOMY AND TOURISM TO BE IGNORED BY THE FEDS

Senator Says Over 60,000 People, From 49 States And 21 Countries, Visited the Saint Lawrence Seaway Last Year; Despite The Steady Stream Of Tourism, The Center Hasn’t Been Updated In Roughly 60 Years, Creating Safety Concerns & Inhibiting Tourism To The North Country

 Schumer Calls On The Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation To Continue To Invest In The Seaway, Including The Construction Of A New Visitor Center And Other Infrastructure Key To Seaway Operations

 Schumer: Upgrades Will Support Tourism And Maintain Seaway Operations Critical To Regional Economy 

Standing with St. Lawrence County stakeholders and officials, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer today called on the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation (SLSDC) to continue to make investments in the Seaway’s navigation infrastructure and tourism facilities. Schumer expressed support for the SLSDC Asset Renewal Program (ARP), which outlines investment priorities for critical Seaway infrastructure. According to Schumer, the Seaway is an integral component of the Great Lakes transportation system and economy, and a major attraction for tourism in Massena, N.Y. seeing tens of thousands of visitors a year. Schumer added that the existing Dwight. D. Eisenhower Lock Visitors’ Center, located on the Seaway, is nearly 60-years old and in desperate need of repairs and upgrades. Schumer urged SLSDC to continue making investments in critical navigation and economic development projects that are part of the Seaway’s ARP, including the replacement of the Eisenhower Lock Visitors’ Center with a new facility. Schumer said the upgrades and new visitors’ center are vital to ensuring the safety of lock operations and visitors, and will create tremendous opportunities for tourism and for residents of St. Lawrence County.

“Not only is the St. Lawrence Seaway integral to the regional economy, but it is no wonder over 60,000 tourists came to Massena last year to watch ships come through these locks. That is why I am calling for greater federal investment, and key infrastructure upgrades like the construction of a new visitors’ center. The Eisenhower Lock Visitors’ Center is in desperate need of repair,” said Senator Schumer. “As a part of the ongoing efforts to invest in the Seaway, SLSDC should start work on a brand new and long-overdue visitors’ center right along the St. Lawrence Seaway. This much-needed project will enhance tourists’ and visitors’ experience by providing basic 21st Century amenities and total operational safety. We have reached a high water mark here and the time has come to make meaningful investments that continue to benefit the residents and tourists in St. Lawrence County, and the reconstruction of the Eisenhower Lock Visitors’ Center will do just that.”

According to Schumer, the Saint Lawrence Seaway is a critical component of the transportation system that directly serves an eight-state, two-province region that accounts for one-quarter of the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP), one-half of North America’s manufacturing and services industries, and is home to nearly one-quarter of the continent’s population. In 2017 alone, more than 60,000 people from 49 states and 21 countries visited the Eisenhower Lock during the summer months. Yet, the Visitors’ Center is incapable of safely and adequately accommodating the tens of thousands of visitors who visit Massena to see this incredible operation every year. Schumer explained that the existing Dwight D. Eisenhower Lock Visitors’ Center is nearly 60-years old and in desperate need of renovations and upgrades to support tourism in the region. He explained the aged building is located too close to the locks, making it difficult for a crane to safely fit between the center and the lock, and jeopardizing the lock’s operational safety. In addition, Schumer said that the existing Visitors’ Center lacks basic 21st-century amenities and is not ADA compliant. As a result of this, Schumer called on the SLSDC to prioritize greater investments in projects like the Visitors’ Center while continuing investments in the many other critical navigation and economic development projects that are part of the Seaway’s ARP.

Schumer said that not only is a new visitors’ center critical to ensure important safety upgrades for the lock operations and visitors, but could create a tremendous opportunity for tourism in St. Lawrence County. Schumer explained that the new center, which is expected to cost $5 million, will accommodate an increasing number of visitors and provide guests with amenities, such as running water, restrooms, and ADA compliance, granting better access to all visitors. Upgrades will also provide a space for public meetings, cultural exhibits and a concession area for local businesses to sell goods and market the area, generating tremendous opportunities for the local community. Schumer added that the new center will be constructed an appropriate distance from the lock to ensure total operational safety. Schumer said that the construction of a new visitors’ center at the Seaway will help attract people from all over the world and bring new energy to the region.

“The Eisenhower Lock is a world-class attraction that’s has drawn hundreds of thousands of visitors from all over the world.  A new, state-of-the-art visitors’ center will ensure this great facility continues to be one of the cornerstones of Massena and the North Country’s tourism economy,” said Mayor Timmy J. Currier, Village of Massena.

“The Town of Massena is proud to be home to the Saint Lawrence Seaway, and we fully support an upgrade of the Eisenhower Lock Visitor Center.  We have always appreciated the draw of tourists and regional residents to the Visitors’ Center and we know this attraction will increase with a new facility. The St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation has also collaborated with the Town of Massena in allowing the Massena Chamber of Commerce to operate a section of the Center as a tourist information center and store.  It is operated by Chamber members and other volunteers to promote the region and I hope this will continue into the future,” said Steve O’Shaughnessy, Massena Town Supervisor.

"The Eisenhower Lock is one of the many wonders to be discovered in St. Lawrence County, and the new center will allow visitors and residents to engage more fully with this attraction, understanding the role of the Seaway in history and present times. As we continue to build St. Lawrence County as a destination, welcoming visitors from across the globe, a world-class visitor center plays a key role in our effort, not only introducing them to the Lock and Robert Moses State Park, but the greater region, with so much to offer. This project has been identified as a key piece in advancing our tourism economy and we commend Senator Schumer for his initiative in working with all of the partners to make it a reality," said Brooke Rouse, Executive Director St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce.

Schumer added that he helped secure $40 million in federal funding for the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation in this year’s Fiscal Year 2018 omnibus budget bill, an increase of $4M from the previous year, and that these dollars can be used to get started on a new visitor center. In addition, when congressional appropriators sought to defund SLSDC in 2016, Schumer successfully fought to reverse the cut and restored the agency’s funding.

A copy of Schumer’s letter to Deputy Administrator Middlebrook appears below:

Dear Deputy Administrator Middlebrook:

I write to express my support for the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation (SLSDC) Asset Renewal Program (ARP) to provide the critical maintenance of the Seaway’s navigation infrastructure and tourism facilities in upstate New York.  In addition to being an integral component of the Great Lakes transportation system, the Seaway is a major attraction for tourism in Massena, N.Y. However, the existing Dwight D. Eisenhower Lock Visitors’ Center located at the Seaway is nearly 60-years old and in a state of complete disrepair.  I urge you to continue to make investments in the critical navigation and economic development projects that are part of the Seaway’s ARP, including the Eisenhower Lock Visitors’ Center.

As you know, more than 60,000 people from 49 states and 21 countries visited the Eisenhower Lock during the summer months last year and the Visitors’ Center provides historical displays on the Seaway and observation decks for tourist to watch vessel transiting the locks. But the nearly 60-year old Visitors’ Center is falling apart and unable to adequately or safely welcome the region’s visitors. Currently, the aged building is located too close to the locks making it impossible for a crane to safely fit between the center and jeopardizing the lock’s operational safety. Further, the center lacks basic 21st century amenities and has limited space to host visitors, employees, and residents of upstate New York.

A new visitors’ center is not only necessary in order to ensure important safety upgrades for the lock operations and visitors, but it will also create a tremendous opportunity for tourism in St. Lawrence County. The new center will accommodate an increasing number of visitors and provide guests with amenities such as running water, restrooms and concessions, and ADA compliance granting better access to all visitors.  By providing space for public meetings, cultural exhibits and concession area for businesses to sell goods, the new center will provide tremendous resources for the local community.  Further, the new center will be constructed an appropriate distance from the lock to ensure operation safety.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter. The Saint Lawrence Seaway is a critical component of the transportation system that directly serves an eight-state, two-province region that accounts for one-quarter of the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP), one-half of North America’s manufacturing and services industries, and is home to nearly one-quarter of the  continent’s population. It is an incredible opportunity to continue to welcome more than 60,000 visitors in Massena, N.Y. If you have any further questions please do not hesitate to contact me or my staff.

Charles E. Schumer

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