Continental One seeking $98M from state for Route 219 connector

Posted on March 11th, 2015

by David Bertola, Buffalo Business First

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Supporters of the long-discussed Continental One road project traveled to Albany to meet with state legislators seeking funds from a multi-billion dollar settlement that could be used to extend Route 219.

Created about 15 years ago, Continental 1 is a non-profit formed to complete a 1,500-mile trade corridor that extends from Toronto to Miami. In recent years, Continental 1 had been asking for $6.7 million to be restored in the state budget for an environmental impact statement, which must be completed prior to constructing any of the remaining 20 miles from Springville to Interstate 86 in Salamanca.

Now, officials will alter that request to nearly $100 million to link a 1.8-mile stretch that connects the 219 to Interstate 86 in Salamanca.

Continental One Executive Director Meg Lauerman said last year that the $6.7 million— which was removed from the 2008 budget — would be needed to fund the supplemental environmental impact statement.

“As local, regional and national infrastructure systems are affected with the growth of the natural gas industry, increased trade with Canada through Buffalo and the impacts of the Panama Canal on East Coast traffic, Continental 1 is gaining attention as a critical component of Northeast, Midwest and Canadian commercial and personal transportation,” she said.

However, Lauerman said that another opportunity presented itself to aid with the funding. Last summer, New York state was awarded $3.3 billion as a result of a record settlement with France’s largest bank, BNP Paribas.

In July, BNP Paribas reached a $8.83 billion overall settlement with federal and state authorities for violating U.S. trade sanctions and conducting dollar transactions for clients in Sudan, Iran and Cuba. The bank acknowledged that $190 billion in transactions went through its New York office and other branches while hiding client identities for more than a decade.

According to reports, it was the largest single settlement for the New York State Department of Financial Services, which regulates banking and insurance.

Lauerman went to Albany Tuesday to talk about section 12 of Route 219, and ask for $98 million to fund the 1.8-mile project.

She said that while there’s a long line of people looking for funding, she said Sen. Cathy Young, R-Olean, has been working to complete the project, which has also received support from Buffalo Niagara Partnership. Cattaraugus County can help with the egress of truck traffic to and from Canada, but access through it isn’t easy. Completing this stretch of road, she said, would help.

“We’ve been stumping in recent years for a supplemental environmental impact statement and for $6.7 million to cover its cost, but this is more palatable,” Lauerman said. “People in Pennsylvania and across the U.S. are chipping away, working on small pieces of highway, getting funding and building highways a little bit at a time,” she said. “That’s been successful, and we’re using that strategy because it works.”