NY State Senators Join Call for $500M Route 17 Expansion

Real Estate In-Depth | December 2019

From left, State Sen. Jen Metzger; Sen. James Skoufis; Nancy Proyect, president, Orange County Citizens Foundation and member, 17-Forward-86; Sen. Tim Kennedy; and Maureen Halahan, president and CEO of the Orange County Partnership and co-chair of 17-Forward-86.

WOODBURY—A group of three prominent New York State Senators joined members of the 17-Forward-86 coalition and local elected officials on Dec. 11 to show support for the growing campaign to widen Route 17 in Orange and Sullivan counties.

New York State Senator James Skoufis, D-Hudson Valley; Senator Jen Metzger, D-Rosendale; and Senator Tim Kennedy, D-Buffalo, chairman of the Committee on Transportation, pointed to the critical need to add a third lane on Route 17 and pledged to reinforce efforts to secure funding for the $500-million project.

“It is essential that Route 17’s expansion be prioritized and funded in the forthcoming five-year DOT capital plan,” said Sen. Skoufis. “With LEGOLAND (New York) opening in Goshen this summer and continued stress on our local infrastructure, time is of the essence to move forward with a third lane. New, additional capacity would make an enormous difference for our residents, business owners, first responders, and commuters—all while putting construction men and women to work.”

17-Forward-86, a group of stakeholders in the Hudson Valley, is seeking $500 million from New York State to add a third lane east and west on Route 17 to enable future designation as Interstate 86. The coalition has been engaging state legislators to secure $100 million per year in the State Department of Transportation’s 2020 five-year capital plan to implement recommendations included in a 2013 capacity study issued by NYSDOT.

The 2013 study, funded with $1 million secured by U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, found that congestion on Route 17 will worsen and development in the region necessitates an additional lane/added capacity. The DOT’s next capital plan is scheduled to begin in April 2020 and will be funded by state and federal funds.

“Expanding Route 17 is vital to our quality of life and economic well-being in the Hudson Valley and Sullivan Catskills,” said Maureen Halahan, president and CEO of the Orange County Partnership, and co-chair of 17-Forward-86. “We have been seeing a boom in economic activity and as we continue to grow, we need to meet the demand and ensure the safety of everyone traveling our roads. We also need to protect our environment—idling cars on Route 17 pose a threat to our air quality. We’re grateful to our state representatives for supporting this critical effort to improve mobility on Route 17 to accommodate the increased level of activity and prepare for a prosperous future.”

In May, the DOT issued a request for expressions of interest for an engineering firm to begin a scoping and preliminary review process and in October selected the firm WSP. The work is part of a $5-million Planning and Environmental Linkage study, which includes identifying priority locations and conducting environmental assessments and preliminary engineering. Funding for the PEL study was committed as part of the New York State’s 2018-2019 budget.

“The Citizens Foundation and the entire 17-Forward-86 coalition thank Sens. Skoufis, Metzger and Kennedy for their support of this important project,” said Nancy Proyect, president of the Orange County Citizens Foundation and member of 17-Forward-86. “We appreciate that they recognize that this project will improve the quality of life for residents and visitors alike by safeguarding the environment, improving safety, and ensuring access to our communities for emergency services, economic growth and the public.”

She added, “With this project, we won’t have to worry about air quality alerts from idling cars sitting in traffic for hours and we’ll be able to get around our communities with ease.”

17-Forward-86 was established in August 2018 by a dedicated group of advocates who support the widening of Route 17. The coalition comprises more than 200 members of economic development groups, construction trades, tourism groups and energy companies who share a common vision for expanding the capacity of Route 17 to strengthen the economic well-being of the Hudson Valley and Sullivan Catskills.