A coalition representing more than 100 stakeholders assembled in Albany, N.Y., to launch a campaign for expanding Route 17 in Orange and Sullivan counties.
17-Forward-86, a group of business, industry, trade and tourism interests, seeks $500 million from New York state to add a third lane each way on the heavily traveled corridor between Harriman and Exit 103 in Monticello.
Coalition members say there is a critical need to ease congestion, improve safety, protect the environment, accommodate growth and enhance the effort to upgrade Route 17 to enable future designation as Interstate 86 in the region.
“Expanding Route 17 is vital to quality of life and the economic well-being of the Hudson Valley and Sullivan Catskills,” Maureen Halahan, president and CEO of the Orange County Partnership, said in a news conference. “It will strengthen the region’s economy by improving access for tourists and businesses, while enhancing commuter safety and reducing environmental damage from vehicular emissions caused by idling motorists.”
New York State Senate and Assembly members present on March 7 to voice support for the expansion project included:
Mayor Joseph DeStefano, Middletown
Supervisor Douglas Bloomfield, Goshen
Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, 100th District
Assemblyman Karl Brabenec, 98th District
Assemblyman Jonathan Jacobson, 104th District
Assemblyman Colin Schmitt, 99th District
Senator Jen Metzger, 42nd District
Senator James Skoufis, 39th District
Senator George Amedore Jr., 46th District
Representative for Assemblyman Brian Miller, 101st District
The coalition’s campaign to raise awareness of safety and travel concerns, and solve these problems, comes at a pivotal time for the region. The volume of traffic on Route 17 is expected to increase sharply and the inability to meet driver demand negatively affects everything from economic development and tourism, to public safety and population growth.
“Once complete, this project, by a very conservative estimate, will have an economic impact of $1.5 billion on the region,” said Marc Baez, president and CEO, Sullivan County Partnership for Economic Development. “With the Resorts World Casino and other investments in Sullivan County, this project is critical to our ability to thrive.”
To achieve its goal, 17-Forward-86 is seeing inclusion in the state Department of Transportation’s Capital Plan for a five-year term at $100 million a year beginning in March 2020. The state has already invested $150 million in reconfiguring Route 17’s Exit 131 and expanding the roadway’s capacity is an important next step for the region. This spring, the DOT is scheduled to conduct a $5 million Planning and Environmental Linkage study (PEL), which includes identifying priority locations and conducting environmental assessments and preliminary engineering.
The 2013 Route 17 Transportation Corridor Study noted that the existing congestion and delays on Route 17 will worsen over the near- and long-term, and that the volume of development along the corridor necessitates an additional lane/added capacity.
Projections by the Cornell Program of Applied Demographics indicate that, by 2020, Sullivan County’s population will grow to more than 79,000 and Orange County’s to more than 400,000, further increasing traffic along the corridor.
The continued growth of tourism is also steadily increasing traffic. Sullivan County receives four million visitors annually, which is expected to increase to eight million in 2020. Currently, the population climbs to over 350,000 during the summer months and to an additional 50,000 on any given weekend.
17-Forward-86 was established in August 2018 by a dedicated group of advocates who support the expansion of Route 17. The coalition comprises more than 100 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. To learn more, visit www.17Forward86.org.
Photo of news conference courtesy of 17-Forward-86.