Sheriffs are adding their support to the growing campaign to widen Route 17 east and west in Orange and Sullivan counties.
Orange County Sheriff Carl DuBois and Sullivan County Sheriff Michael Schiff met recently with representatives of 17-Forward-86, a coalition of stakeholders advocating for creating a third lane on the heavily traveled corridor.
“Our officers are understandably concerned about the worsening traffic conditions on Route 17,”DuBois said in the coalition's press release detailing the effort. “As first responders, we know all too well the dangers tie-ups pose, and the difference a few minutes – even seconds – can make in a life-or-death situation.”
The meeting was organized by 17-Forward-86 co-chairs Maureen Halahan, President and CEO of the Orange County Partnership and Marc Baez, President and CEO of the Sullivan County Partnership for Economic Development.
“We are so grateful to our sheriffs for giving us the opportunity to share our message about the critical need to widen Route 17,” said Halahan.
Halahan said DuBois and Schiff will be discussing this with the division of New York State Police to get their input.
“The safety of our residents and visitors is our top priority,” Schiff said. “That’s why we support this initiative to improve mobility and help to reduce risks on our roads.”
17-Forward-86 launched its campaign on March 6 at a press conference in Albany. The coalition is seeking $500 million from New York state to add a third lane east and west on Route 17 to enable future designation as Interstate 86 in the region.
The state has since taken the next steps in the ongoing effort to improve mobility on Route 17, including studying the addition of a third lane.
In May, the state Department of Transportation (DOT) issued a request for expressions of interest for an engineering firm to begin a scoping and preliminary review process.
The work is part of a $5 million Planning and Environmental Linkage study (PEL), which includes identifying priority locations and conducting environmental assessments and preliminary engineering.
Funding for the PEL was committed as part of the state’s 2018-2019 budget.
“The PEL study will lay the technical groundwork to make this project a reality,” Baez said. “We’re very pleased with the progress. This sets the stage for inclusion of Route 17 capacity enhancements in the upcoming capital program.”
17-Forward-86 has been engaging state legislators to secure funding in the DOT’s multi-year capital plan to enable the implementation of recommendations contained in a 2013 capacity study issued by NYSDOT. Coalition members have also been meeting directly with DOT officials.
The DOT’s next capital plan is expected to begin in March 2020 and will be funded by state and federal funds.