BuffaloNews.com-Find the money State needs to produce $6 million to continue work on Continental 1

Posted on November 24th, 2010

Following the recent opening of Section 5 of U.S. Route 219—a four-mile stretch from Springville to south of Cattaraugus Creek marked by a dramatic dual-span bridge—the Continental 1 dream of a 1,500-mile driving corridor from Toronto to Miami got closer.

In Bradford Township, Pa.,work has just been completed on a multimillion-dollar rebuild of 11 miles and in Johnsonburg, two miles of an elevated highway costing$63 million opened this fall. In Somerset, of a$350 million project there’s only$35 million of funding yet to be allocated.

It will take only a 269-mile span in New York and Pennsylvania to make Continental 1 a reality.

A piece of the final project would create a four-lane highway over 24 miles from Springville to Interstate 86 near Salamanca. To achieve that, the state needs to restore funding for a supplemental environmental impact statement. That accounts for just $6 million of a $1 billion transportation budget. The money was cut last summer as the state worked to close a budget deficit.

Anyone living in New York State has a first-hand under-standing of the deepening budget hole—at last count $9 billion— so any amount of money would bring pause. However, consider the positive economic impact of new jobs, possibly a few thousand, and assorted opportunities to capture interest for locales along the stretch.

Buffalo could have yet another intermodal transportation hub from which it could garner revenue, and the same could be said for points along many economically distressed parts of the state, particularly south of the city, where population is declining and the tax base is especially weak.

Continental 1 also would potentially act as a recruiting incentive for colleges and universities if students and their families could better access different areas. Take, for example, St. Bonaventure University, Canisius College, Niagara University, the University at Buffalo, Buffalo State College and the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford.

This page has recognized opposition from environmental groups and urged careful planning to control urban sprawl into the countryside. Much of the farmland has remained fallow because people have been anticipating this road. When the state promises something to the taxpayers, residents make plans and lives are changed, whether it’s farmland or businesses that have closed.

There will be no benefit if the project remains merely a cross-state link, instead of its intended integration into a complete 1,500-mile Continental 1 route from Toronto to Miami. And with Buffalo as the gateway, the benefits should be obvious. The state should look hard for the $6 million needed for this project. Things are hard right now, but we can’t stop planning for a better future.