By Theodore Bennett
When Governor Andrew Cuomo says the upstate region has long been neglected by state leaders, I am sure the Governor is not referring to Governor George Pataki and the State Senate and Assembly members during that administration’s twelve years in office.
I would refer to the largest transportation project since the New York State Thruway was built - the conversion of Route 17 to Interstate 86. The first 117 miles of Route 17 between the Pennsylvania State Line and Exit 48 in East Corning were designated as Interstate 86 on December 3, 1999. The entire 381 mile length of Route 17 was scheduled to be fully converted to Interstate 86 by 2009. I believe had Governor Pataki served another term, the project would have been completed by now. Conversely, Governor Cuomo and the New York State Thruway Authority are working in concert to delay the completion of I86 as long as possible.
Although it has been 14 years upgrading a four-lane highway, the reconstruction projects remaining are in a good position to be funded and expedited. Twenty-four counties and the New York State Association of Counties presented resolutions to Governor Cuomo stating the same. This was in response to Governor Cuomo’s delaying major projects in Delaware County and Orange County until 2017.
The I-86 corridor is not simply upstate New York; it is the Hudson Valley, Southern Tier and Western New York. The economic benefits associated with interstate access are well documented. A strong, safe, infrastructure system is vital to the foundation of economic development. Let’s reverse the delays and really make New York work!
Theodore Bennett is the Chemung County Legislator and Chairman of the I86 Coalition