Salamanca expressway start gets endorsement

Posted on November 5th, 2015

by Rick Miller, Salamanca Press

Link to Story

LITTLE VALLEY — Cattaraugus County lawmakers voted unanimously Wednesday to ask Gov. Andrew Cuomo to provide state funding for extending the Route 219 Expressway north from Interstate 86, east of Salamanca.

The extension of the expressway from its current terminus in Ashford, just south of Springville, has been stalled for for more than five years.

Sponsor Joseph Snyder. R-Ischua, invited the entire Cattaraugus County Legislature to join him as co-sponsors, which they did.

Afterward, Snyder said that with the change in administration at the New York State Department of Transportation (D.O.T.), there appears to have been a shift in sentiment over the Route 219 Expressway. Previously, the $750 million price tag for the 28-mile route between Springville and Salamanca served as a roadblock.

Last year, Continental 1, a lobbying group advocating a four-lane expressway between Toronto and Miami, switched gears and proposed building 2.5 miles of the expressway north from Salamanca, across the Allegheny River and into the Town of Great Valley.

Cost estimates for the first stretch are in the $100 million range, about 10 percent of which would be the state’s share. It was not included in the 2015-16 state budget.

Continental 1 has ramped up the Route 219 proposal again with the appointment of Matthew Driscoll as the new D.O.T. commissioner.

“Last year there was little sentiment in New York for work on Route 219,” Snyder said after the meeting.

With the latest construction in Pennsylvania and Virginia, the route is 90 percent done, with most of the rest of the gap in New York, he said.

“There’s increased interest at the state and federal levels,” Snyder said. “They’re trying to get some money included in next year’s state budget.”

Legislature Vice Chairman James J. Snyder, R-Olean, father to Joseph Snyder, agreed this is a good time for county lawmakers to line up behind the Route 219 proposal.

He noted however, that the proposal “isn’t going anywhere” without the blessing of the Seneca Nation of Indians.

James Snyder said he’s not sure anyone has briefed Seneca officials about the latest proposal. He was adopted into the Seneca’s Hawk Clan many years ago.

Despite the resolution urging construction of the expressway north from Salamanca, the first order of business is funding a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, with a price tag of $7 million or more to study the entire 28-mile route, Joseph Snyder said.

Legislature Chairman Norman Marsh sponsored another resolution recreating the Route 219 Corridor Development Committee, which had lapsed over state inaction on the expressway. Once that committee meets, the new proposal will likely be reviewed by members. The panel may ask regional D.O.T. officials to address the members.

State Sen. Catharine Young, R-Olean, is also expected to back the latest effort to extend the expressway in Cattaraugus County. She fought earlier this year to get funding for the environmental studies.

It’s not only the Senecas that stand in the way of any additional expressway construction. The Federal Highway Administration ruled that there would be no expressway construction below Snake Run Road in Ashford Hollow without an agreement between the state and the Senecas.

U.S. Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, urged serious consideration of the proposal by state and Seneca officials and said a new federal Transportation Bill might be able to provide some funding.

“We’re going to keep pushing as hard as we can on this,” Young told the Times Herald on Wednesday.

“I’m going to be leading the charge. I’m very hopeful Rep. Reed can find some money in the new Transportation Bill for this. If we can get some federal funding loosened up for this, it would go a long way with state officials.”

Young said she met a few months ago with Seneca officials to explain the new Route 219 initiative.

“I want to continue to have dialogue with them,” she said. “They are working on their economic development, and getting this road could benefit everyone.”

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer suggested several years ago that the Route 219 Expressway be constructed from both ends at once, bridging the 28-mile gap in 10 years or less.