Gov. Hochul Earmarks Up to $1 Billion for Route 17 Expansion
John Jordan | April 18, 2022
ALBANY—The most consequential economic development project for the mid-Hudson Valley region in decades is not a major corporate relocation, a large lease deal or a new massive warehouse developed by a national e-commerce giant. Instead, it will be a major infrastructure project that will surely facilitate mega deals like those mentioned above in the coming years.
Advocates for the expansion of Route 17 in Orange and Sullivan counties learned on April 9 that their efforts had borne fruit as Gov. Kathy Hochul in touting her record $32.8-billion, five-year capital plan for the New York State Department of Transportation noted that the state would earmark up to $1 billion of the capital plan to “accelerate the conversion of the Route 17 corridor in Orange and Sullivan counties to Interstate 86, fueling transformative levels of economic growth in the region and improving quality of life by alleviating congestion.”
The New York State Department of Transportation is now expected to begin the environmental study on the Route 17 expansion project based on a final report from the New York State Department of Transportation’s Route 17 Planning and Environmental Linkage (PEL) Study group released in November 2021. The PEL report recommended the state move forward with an environmental review of a General Use Third Lane in each direction on Route 17 in Orange and Sullivan counties that could if built as one major project cost anywhere from $650 million to $1.27 billion. The PEL Study Group also called for a study of interchange upgrades be undertaken at exits in Orange and Sullivan counties and that improvements be made in the region to improve connectivity to existing transit.
While Gov. Hochul had called for NYSDOT to begin the environmental review process in her State of the State message earlier this year, her announcement earlier this month of a funding commitment of up to $1 billion is seen by project advocates as a major victory.
“We thank Gov. Kathy Hochul and the State Legislature for making Route 17 a priority for investment,” said 17-Forward-86 Coalition co-chair Maureen Halahan, President and CEO of the Orange County Partnership. “This project will improve mobility and safety in the region by making much-needed upgrades to Route 17. It’s been a long road to this point, and we’re overjoyed to see this project finally move forward now that the necessary resources have been allocated.”
17-Forward-86 is a coalition of industry, trade and civic representatives that has been advocating for adding an additional travel lane along Route 17 to convert the corridor to Interstate 86 in Orange and Sullivan counties.
“We are grateful to the governor and our local, state and federal lawmakers—and to the thousands of stakeholders working with us to see this project become a reality,” said 17-Forward-86 Coalition co-chair Marc Baez, President and CEO of the Sullivan County Partnership. “This is good news for our residents, visitors, first-responders and all those who travel Route 17. We now have the chance to improve safety on this corridor and ensure sustainability for generations to come.”
The 17-Forward 86 coalition recently hosted a rally at the Galleria at Crystal Run in the Town of Wallkill with local, state and federal representatives to urge Gov. Hochul and state legislators to commit construction funding as part of the NYSDOT capital plan by using part of the more than $5 billion in additional funding earmarked for New York State under the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
“As New York State continues to rebuild, we must seize opportunities to get our local economy back on track,” said Greg Lalevee, Business Manager, IUOE Local 825, and member of the 17-Forward-86 Coalition. “One of the surest ways to do that is to get people to work and to attract investments here in Orange and Sullivan counties. Infrastructure plays a key role in all of this and upgrading the Route 17 corridor will go a long way toward helping our region recover and prosper. The construction project itself will create good-paying jobs and the end result will be a safer and more efficient means of transportation for all residents and visitors in the Hudson Valley.”
According to the final PEL Study Group report, the scope of the construction of the General Use Third Lane beginning at Exit 131 in Harriman (Orange County) to Exit 103 (Rapp Road) in Monticello in Sullivan County would determine the cost of the project.
Option 1, which involves using the basic existing footprint of the roadway and shoulders to accommodate a third lane in each direction would cost $385 million to $470 million for the Orange County stretch of roadway and another $265 million to $325 million in Sullivan County.
Under Option 2, which would involve widening the existing roadway to accommodate the third lane expansions in both directions so that most of Route 17 would conform to federal Interstate standards, the costs would escalate. For the Orange County section, the cost would run between $615 million to $750 million, while the Sullivan County component’s cost ranges from $425 million to $520 million.
The PEL Study Group did not recommend one option over the other and also while listing interchanges in Orange and Sullivan counties that could be upgraded, it did not issue any specific recommendations, although it did point out those with the greatest need.
The study indicated the cost of the interchange upgrades in Orange County could run from $135 million to $175 million and in Sullivan County from $43 million to $144 million.
Improvements to Connectivity to Existing Transit projects are projected to cost between $1 million to $1.5 million in Sullivan County and $9 million to $10 million in Orange County.
While study group officials have stated at previous virtual public workshops that the full project would likely not move forward all at once due to funding constraints and other factors, the report listed the total project cost involving the construction of the General Use Third Lane, interchange improvements and improvements to connectivity to existing transit projects would run from $529 million to $935 million in Orange County and $309 million to $665.5 million in Sullivan County.
The Route 17 expansion will qualify for some federal funding. However, it is likely that the overall project would be done in phases and based on the report it appears work would begin on a stretch of the roadway in Orange County.
“As previously noted, NYSDOT will determine the logical termini and specific project limits of the General Use Third Lane Alternative in the future, following careful consideration of existing and projected traffic congestion, public and agency input, and available funding,” the report stated. “Based on this Route 17 PEL Study, the area of greatest need appears to be between Exits 120 (NY Route 211 – Wallkill) and 131 (Woodbury), a distance of approximately 22 miles, and the segment of the corridor that is projected to experience the highest levels of congestion in the year 2055.”