Orange County Partnership - News

It’s Time to Move Forward for Safety and Sustainability in the Hudson Valley

Efforts are underway to enhance mobility on Route 17 in Orange and Sullivan counties by adding a third lane east and west and making other necessary upgrades to this critical corridor in our region. The Orange County Partnership has long supported this effort and, as a founding member of the 17-Forward-86 Coalition, has been a vocal advocate for moving this project forward.


The New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) on Jan. 17, 2024 hosted two public information sessions to provide details on updating Route 17 to convert the corridor to Interstate 86. More information is available:


Enhancing safety and improving mobility on Route 17 is of paramount importance, and we cannot afford further delays to this long-overdue project. The NYSDOT has been very responsive to local concerns and has addressed considerations ranging from safety, the environment, quality-of-life and projected financial costs.


The need for an additional lane has been confirmed by two separate NYSDOT studies and has bipartisan support at all levels of government. The project has long been supported by U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, and Gov. Kathy Hochul last year announced the start of an environmental review of Route 17 – a key step forward to convert the corridor to Interstate 86. The launch of the study follows the inclusion of up to $1 billion in the New York State budget to accelerate the conversion of Route 17 – funding for which our 17-Forward-86 Coalition had been advocating.


Why is this project so important? Increasing capacity on Route 17 is crucial for several reasons, but first and foremost is safety. An additional lane will improve mobility and provide critical access for first responders – police, fire and ambulance services. It will make the corridor safer for all of us traveling on it each and every day, whether to the office, or medical appointments, or to take our children to school or to the baseball field. It will help local businesses that depend on deliveries and transports by allowing vehicles to move more efficiently, thus reducing traffic jams. It will also alleviate traffic, particularly on weekends, to our many tourist destinations.


There are some who assume that widening a highway could exacerbate traffic conditions. A third lane on Route 17 will not draw more traffic – it will facilitate the existing level moving through the area more expeditiously. It’s common sense.


If we build another lane, will more people come? The fact is, they’re already here. Our region has seen a dramatic rise in new residents. Orange County has the fourth-fastest growing population in the state, increasing at a rate of more than 9% between 2010 and 2023. Census data shows Sullivan County as one of the fastest-growing counties in the state. Many of these people commute along Route 17.


The Route 17 project will also go a long way toward the sustainability of our communities and local economies. It has been proved – over the course of a century of American life and economic growth – that each $1 billion invested in infrastructure yields thousands of direct jobs and a multiplier of that in indirect jobs. Infrastructure upgrades are investments in our future.


The numbers speak for themselves. We cannot ignore the facts: Our region is growing and we must ensure our infrastructure can safely handle current and future capacity. Enhancing mobility on Route 17 is the responsible thing to do for our residents, visitors, environment and region.


The Orange County Partnership is a founding member of the 17-Forward-86 Coalition.17-Forward-86 is a broad-based coalition of industry, trade and civic representatives who share a common vision for expanding the capacity of Route 17 to ensure the economic well-being of the Hudson Valley and Sullivan Catskills. To learn more, visit