Big push is on for state funding for U.S. Route 219 studies

Posted on February 27th, 2016

By Rick Miller, The Bradford Era

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U.S. Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, sent a letter to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently, urging him to apply for federal transportation funding to complete the U.S. Route 219 expressway in Cattaraugus County.

“We care about making sure our roads are up to the task of creating and sustaining a 21st-century economy,” Reed said.

“Now that the federal government has passed a long-term highway funding plan, it’s only fair that the state does its part and makes those funds available to complete Route 219.”

The renewed push by Reed is part of a coordinated effort by Route 219 supporters and local and state elected officials to convince the governor of the need for the expressway stretching from the Springville area to the Salamanca area.

Reed’s letter to the governor requests that New York use a portion of its federal highway funding from the $305 billion transportation funding bill, which was enacted late last year, for completion of the highway.

“Route 219 plays a critical role to the economy of our region, and to the state as a whole,” Reed said. “We must come together regardless of party and push this project over the finish line.”

In addition to the $1.8 billion that will go to New York annually, the bill also sets aside $4.5 billion to fund projects with national or regional importance, with a quarter of that amount specifically designated for rural areas.

The Cattaraugus County Route 219 Corridor Development Committee will meet at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Cattaraugus County Center in Little Valley for an update on the new approach that has been adopted by supporters.

The new approach, proposed last year by Continental 1, the group advocating a four-lane highway connecting Toronto and Miami, involves building a bridge across the Allegheny River, about 2 miles of highway and a bridge starting at Interstate 86 — east of Salamanca — at a cost of around $90 million.

All previous initiatives have involved extending the expressway south from Peters Road in Ashford, where it currently ends.

Reed said he feels “there is an opportunity to move the ball in the right direction.” The congressman said he and other supporters have been working with the Seneca Nation of Indians, which would have to approve any route across its Allegany Territory.

“There’s a pot of money at the federal level, and all the stakeholders are coming together,” Reed said. “There’s an environment present to move this thing forward. Any positive movement is good. Hopefully, it will have a snowball effect.”

At the state level, Assemblyman Joseph Giglio, R-Gowanda, said that while money for environmental studies was not included in the 2016-17 state budget, the situation remains fluid.

Giglio and state Sen. Catharine Young, R-Olean, have been pushing the governor’s office and state Department of Transportation to include $7 million in the budget for Route 219 environmental studies. That money is “really peanuts” compared to the proposed $154 billion state budget, he said.

“We may not know until April 1,” Giglio said.

Route 219 is subject to budget negotiations involving the governor and Senate and Assembly leaders.

“We need that corridor to secure the trade route,” Giglio said. “If we go too slow, we risk getting left behind.”

Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, are looking to establish a direct trade link of their own to the southern markets, he warned.

“Will we be the hub, or will it be Detroit?” he asked. “We’re the most direct route.”