Reed said highway bill would fit Route 219 work

Posted on November 10th, 2015

by Rick Miller, Salamanca Press

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U.S. Rep. Tom Reed said Monday the Transportation Bill passed last week by the House includes goals that would apply to the proposed Route 219 Expressway between Salamanca and Springville.

The three-year bill approved by the House still has to be reconciled with the Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2015 passed by the Senate, Reed explained.

The Corning-based Republican said the three-year, $325 billion House-passed Transportation Bill contains $4.5 billion in specially designated highway funds. It would help states with interstate highway construction in situations where the cost was above $100 million, Reed said. The projects would have to compete for the funding, he added.

That $4.5 billion is for a “nationally significant” freight and highway program, Reed said.

“We need to make sure Western New York gets its fair share,” Reed told reporters during a telephone press conference Monday afternoon. “I hope the governor will join us in regard to Route 219.”

The proposed 28-mile expressway stretching from Ashford to Salamanca needs a $7 million Environmental Impact Statement before one shovel of dirt can be moved.

In addition, the Seneca Nation of Indians must approve any route across its Allegany Territory. The Route 219 would connect to Interstate 86, just east of Salamanca.

Reed said it was possible that federal funds could help pay for the environmental studies, which could take two years or more to complete.

“I hope the folks in Albany will join us in advocating for Route 219,” Reed said. “It’s a $700 million project that could be competing for one of these grants. We have to have an infrastructure for the 21st century.”

Continental 1, the lobbying group group advocating a four-lane highway between Toronto and Miami, recently began to push a plan to start construction of the Route 219 Expressway at the southern end, near Salamanca.

State elected officials have met with Seneca leaders regarding the new plan. There is also reason to believe that new Department of Transportation officials in Albany would be more likely to look favorably on a renewed push for Route 219.

The House Transportation Bill was a good start, Reed said.

“There are some minor differences to be worked out with the Senate,” including mass transit, he noted.

Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., vowed Monday to overturn the loss of mass transit funding to Northeast states under the House bill.

“It’s a devastating blow, and I will do everything I can to overturn it,” he pledged in a conference call with reporters.

Schumer, who will be a member of the Senate-House Conference Committee, said he was afraid state officials would improve upstate mass transit by diverting added funds from road and bridge repairs.