Studies approved for proposed Route 219 Expressway

Posted on July 8th, 2016

The New York State Department of Transportation has reportedly given the green light to environmental studies for the proposed Route 219 Expressway through Cattaraugus County.

State Sen. Catharine Young, R-Olean, announced in an email Thursday evening that the state Senate had an commitment with the DOT to begin a Supplemental Environmental Impact Study and include Route 219 in the state’s five-year capital plan.

In the statement, Young thanked Gov. Andrew Cuomo and DOT Commissioner Matthew Driscoll for backing the studies needed to restart construction of the remaining 23 miles between Ashford and Salamanca.

“Route 219 must be completed to put Cattaraugus County on the map,” Young said.

Richard Zink, president of the New York Route 219 Association, lauded the agreement with the transportation department.

“We look forward to working with DOT to do anything we can to assist them,” said Zink, who is also executive director of the Southern Tier Regional Planning and Development Board, another group that’s been promoting the expressway for many years. “This is a big step in the right direction.”

The Times Herald was unable to reach Hugh Dunne Jr., chairman of the Cattaraugus County Route 219 Development Committee, for comment by press time.

The Route 219 Association and groups like Continental 1 have been pushing for Route 219 for the past several years. Recently, a push started to begin construction of the Route 219 Expressway at the southern end of the project, at Interstate 86 just east of Salamanca.

“The Senate has worked closely with NYSDOT and the governor on establishing this agreement, which has the potential to bring jobs and economic opportunity to our region,” Young said. “Progress on Route 219 has been stalled since November of 2010, when we opened the Section 5 expressway and high-level bridge that spans Cattaraugus Creek in the town of Ashford.

“As Senate Finance chair, I pushed for the environmental study to be included in the current five-year road and bridge plan, and the resulting agreement is an enormous step forward. We give our sincere thanks to Gov. Cuomo and NYSDOT Commissioner Matthew Driscoll for working with the Senate, listening to the people and addressing the economic needs of Western New York.”

Assemblyman Joseph Giglio, R-Gowanda, also applauded the environmental study as a step toward improving the area’s future.

“It is such great news, it almost leaves you speechless. It is what we’ve been striving for, and finally having movement after six long years is phenomenal for the entire region,” he said.

Completing Route 219 has been a top priority for Cattaraugus County for decades because of the potential economic and job growth at stake, according to Young.

The state announced in 1998 that Route 219 would become a four-lane highway from Springville to the Interstate 86 Southern Tier Expressway after a study found that up to 28,700 permanent jobs would be generated, according to Young.

“Building the expressway would put people back to work in good-paying jobs and help Western New York be more competitive in economic development,” Young said. “It will enhance tourism and bring more visitors to our region to enjoy our recreational assets, such as Allegany State Park, ski and golf resorts, area wineries and other attractions, bringing more prosperity to the Southern Tier,” she said.

“It also would make it safer for the traveling public. It is a roadway that is heavily used by cars and big trucks. There have been accidents and fatalities on the existing two-lane.”