Soon-to-be U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer disclosed last week that he urged incoming U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to prioritize federal infrastructure funding toward major construction projects, including the estimated $500-million expansion of Route 17 from Orange County to Sullivan County.
The Orange County Partnership called this a major boost for the proposal.
Many business and economic development leaders in the Hudson Valley region view the expansion of Route 17 as critical to the area’s future economy as it recovers from the coronavirus pandemic and welcomes a host of major new development projects, including LEGOLAND New York and Amy’s Kitchen, both set to open soon in Goshen.
’Critical lynchpin to stabilize the economy’
“This project is a critical lynchpin to stabilize the economy, bring commerce in and alleviate the decades long headaches that come with congestion along the Route 17 corridor,” said the 17-Forward 86 Co-chairs Orange County Partnership president and CEO Maureen Halahan and Marc Baez, president and CEO of the Sullivan County Partnership.
Halahan said she believes that the Biden administration, as well as Democratic and Republican members of Congress are all focused on advancing a significant increase in transportation infrastructure spending. With Gov. Andrew Cuomo also announcing major infrastructure programs as part of his State of the State address, pressing state and federal lawmakers on the urgent need for an expanded Route 17 has never been so vital.
Development and recovery
The advocacy group 17-Forward-86 comprises more than 200 members of economic development groups, construction trades, tourism groups and energy companies who share a common vision for expanding the capacity of Route 17 to strengthen the economic well-being of the Hudson Valley and Sullivan Catskills
“Expanding the vital artery of Route 17 to three lanes in Orange and Sullivan counties is critical for the Hudson Valley’s long-term economic development and recovery after the devastation of the COVID pandemic,” Schumer said. “The traffic on Route 17 is bad enough now, and new projects are only going to increase the bottlenecks and delays.”
“By expanding this key route into Sullivan County,” Schumer added, “we can avoid greater traffic in Orange County and maximize the potential of the region’s assets by allowing businesses, workers, residents and visitors alike to freely access all there is to offer.”
It has been estimated that there would be a 30 to 50 percent increase in traffic volume between 2015 and 2045; however, that estimate was calculated before the impact of economic drivers in Orange and Sullivan counties was considered. Schumer said that two lanes are not enough to support such growth and travel between the two counties.
‘We must overhaul the quality of our infrastructure’
“In order to improve that quality and constantly open up new opportunities for Hudson Valley jobs and economic drivers, we must overhaul the quality of our infrastructure,” Schumer said. “That is why I am calling to extend this expansion and urged nominee Buttigieg to make infrastructure funding for projects that promote regional and economic growth, like Route 17, a top priority for the new administration.”