The leadership of the 17-Forward-86 coalition met with Hudson Valley real estate professionals Feb. 14 to share details about the growing campaign to widen Route 17 in Orange and Sullivan counties.
The coalition discussed the critical need to add a third lane on Route 17 and its efforts to secure state and federal funding for the project with members of the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors and its Commercial Investment Division.
“Improving mobility is in everyone’s best interests,” said Richard Haggerty, CEO of the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors Inc., who introduced the members of 17-Forward-86, a diverse group of stakeholders advocating for a third lane east and west on Route 17 to enable future designation as Interstate 86.
“We’re at a pivotal point in our campaign and we have been working with our state delegation to make this project a focal point and a priority for our region,” said Michael Lawler, director of 17-Forward-86. “As our region continues to see significant investments and substantial developments like Legoland and Amy’s Kitchen, we must ensure our infrastructure is able to handle the added capacity.”
Legoland is building a $500 million theme park off Route 17 in the Town of Goshen, expected to open July 4. Also in Goshen, Amy’s Kitchen is constructing a 390,000-square-foot factory where the organic, vegetarian food maker plans to employ close to 700 people.
These projects join a host of developments in Orange and neighboring Sullivan County that are expected to attract millions of visitors to local roads – further necessitating the need for a third lane on Route 17.
“Everyone wants this project,” said 17-Forward-86 co-chair Maureen Halahan, CEO of the Orange County Partnership. “This is about the safety, quality of life and economic well-being of the Hudson Valley and Sullivan Catskills.”
17-Forward-86 is seeking $500 million from New York State to widen Route 17. The coalition has been engaging state legislators to secure funding in the state Department of Transportation’s upcoming capital plan to implement recommendations in a 2013 capacity study issued by NYSDOT.
The 2013 study, funded with $1 million secured by U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, found that congestion on Route 17 will worsen and development in the region necessitates an additional lane/added capacity.
Next DOT capital plan expected to begin April
The DOT’s next capital plan is expected to begin April 1, and be funded by state and federal funds.
In May 2019, the DOT issued a request for expressions of interest for an engineering firm to begin a scoping and preliminary review process and later selected the firm WSP. 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 study was committed as part of the state’s 2018-2019 budget.
“We’re hopeful the PEL study will begin in April,” said 17-Forward-86 lobbyist Michael Fleischer. “We’d like to see funding made available for engineering and construction, to get the ball rolling.”
“At the end of the day, this is about creating hundreds of quality jobs for men and women in the Hudson Valley,” said coalition member Daniel Ortega, who represents Engineers Labor-Employer Cooperative 825. “Our members not only work here, they live here, they shop here ... they are your neighbors.”
17-Forward-86 was established in August 2018 by a group of advocates who support the widening of Route 17. The coalition 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.
To learn more, visit www.17Forward86.org.