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Schumer, Hinchey Call For Widening Of Route 17 To Add Third Lane In Both Directions Using Revenue From Casinos And Other Sources

With Casinos Proposed For Region, New Effort Announced to Improve Roadway In Order To Handle Increased Traffic and Enhance Safety For Drivers
Schumer, Hinchey: Existing Bottlenecks Bad Enough Now, Would Get Worse with Casinos

US Senator Charles E. Schumer and Congressman Maurice Hinchey today launched a new effort to widen Route 17 to three lanes in both directions. Schumer and Hinchey called on New York State to fully fund its existing sevenyearold project to upgrade Route 17 to Interstate I86 and also to expand the plans to include more lanes from Harriman in Orange County to Monticello.

"The traffic on Route 17 is bad enough now, and casinos would only increase the bottlenecks," Schumer said. "The very least that can be done is allocate some of the money made from the casinos to pay for the widening of Route 17. This is one of the most important issues facing the community as it debates whether or not to accept casinos."

"If casinos are going to be built in Sullivan County then we must have the ability to accommodate all of the additional traffic on Route 17 that will be brought to that region," Hinchey said. "To accommodate millions of new visitors to the area annually, Governor Pataki must follow through on his prior commitments to bring Route 17 up to the interstate standards necessary for its conversion to I86. Additionally, he needs to commit NYSDOT to widening the highway to six lanes from Harriman to Monticello. These upgrades are absolutely vital to continuing economic growth in the region, easing traffic congestion which will result from casinos and ensuring that this roadway remains safe for motorists."

In light of the proposal to build casinos in Sullivan County, such an expanded Route 17 project would handle substantially more traffic and enhance the safety of drivers. In addition, Schumer and Hinchey will urge that the proposed Indian casino legislation currently being considered by the New York State legislature mandate a portion of casino revenue be used to fund the improvements to Route 17, along with other state and federal funds. Current NYS Department of Transportation (DOT) plans to bring the key artery to interstate standards do not include any widening of the increasingly congested highway. Furthermore, the state legislation currently proposed to permit Indian casinos in Sullivan County does not yet adequately address the impact of the proposed casinos on the traffic congestion along Route 17.

Schumer and Hinchey proposed that NYSDOT make the widening of Route 17 and the pending Interstatestandard upgrades a higher priority than it has. Joining Schumer and Hinchey at the press conference were Orange County Executive Edward Diana, Sullivan County Legislature Chairman Christopher Cunningham, other elected officials, and labor leaders.