Extending Route 219 will have far-reaching benefits

Posted on February 6th, 2012

James Phillips, President and CEO, Canadian/American Border Trade Alliance
Another Voice – Buffalo News (February 6, 2012)

Transportation connections are the lifeblood of trade, economic activity, jobs, state tax generation and quality of life. Currently, we have a blockage in the region’s only north-south highway artery, Route 219, and it needs construction surgery.

The completion of the final 20 miles of Route 219’s Western New York section of the Continental 1 Corridor is a most important economic development catalyst. It will enhance a successful, sustainable region.

Completing this project will result in 7,000 direct jobs and 2,450 induced jobs, as projected in the June 2010 GBNRTC Economic Impact Analysis. We recently requested funding in the New York transportation budget to complete the remaining 20-mile portion of Continental 1 with a onetime $6.5 million allocation for the SEIS (Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement) and $10 million of construction funds per year for 14 years. The Continental 1 Trade Corridor comprises a 1,500-mile, four-lane, limited-access highway stretching from Toronto to Miami.

Western New York’s location as the southern suburb of the Golden Triangle makes it the U.S. connection to the vast economic engine and upscale population of the Greater Toronto Area, a prime market for New York exports.

In a recent Zogby poll, 84 percent of key decision makers along the corridor in New York and Pennsylvania supported the completion of the Route 219 highway.

Pennsylvania is moving to release $350 million in construction financing to complete the Somerset portion of Route 219. Maryland has funds earmarked for completion of its two-mile portion of the route.

New York’s completing Route 219 means that area companies can produce, service, warehouse and distribute products more efficiently. Families and students will travel more effectively, patients will access medical services and businesses will grow. Completing Route 219 will create a safer highway, jobs and economic prosperity. State Sen. Timothy Kennedy is in discussions with the DOT, which acknowledged a year ago that the DOT’s Region 5 in Western New York has been short-funded well over $100 million in its share of transportation funds since 2008.

It is pertinent to note that in 2008 the $6 million for SEIS and construction funds for Section 6 had been approved and contract negotiations were in process with providers when the budget funds were pulled, with the reason given being the New York budget crisis from the economic downturn.

It seems logical that had Region 5 had its fair share of budgeted funds that perhaps at least the Route 219 SEIS would have remained a go. This is critical, as the SEIS must be complete for construction of the last 20 miles to ever start.

James Phillips is president and CEO of the Canadian/American Border Trade Alliance ( www.canambta.org).