The Orange County Partnership announced Thursday that the efforts by many business, economic development and political leaders in the region to expand Route 17 in Orange and Sullivan counties got a major boost from soon-to-be U.S. Senate Majority Leader, Charles Schumer.
Schumer revealed that he recently held a virtual meeting with incoming U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary, Pete Buttigieg, and urged him to prioritize federal infrastructure funding toward major construction projects, including the estimated $500-million expansion of Route 17 from Orange County to Sullivan County. Sen. Schumer has been advocating for an expanded Route 17 for more than 15 years.
Many key 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, according to Orange County Partnership President and CEO Maureen Halahan.
“We thank Senator Schumer for pushing the U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary nominee, Pete Buttigieg, to prioritize federal infrastructure funding for the construction of a third lane on Route 17. As the hundreds of local business and community organizations that make up our coalition look towards the Hudson Valley’s economic comeback, 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,” stated Halahan and Marc Baez, 17-Forward 86 Co-Chairs, in a joint statement. Marc Baez is president and CEO of the Sullivan County Partnership.
Halahan 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.
In August 2018, the advocacy group 17-Forward-86 was established to 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.
Due to the coalition’s efforts, in May 2019, the NYSDOT 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 to undertake the review. 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.