Orange County Partnership - News

U.S. Sen. Schumer Pushes Incoming Biden Administration for Expanded Route 17

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, who later this month will be designated as the U.S. Senate Majority Leader, 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 towards construction projects, including the estimated $500-million expansion of Route 17 from Orange County to Sullivan County.


The Route 17 expansion project is seen by many business and economic development leaders in the Hudson Valley region as critical to the area’s economy, particularly as it recovers from the coronavirus pandemic.


Sen. Schumer explained that not only would an infusion of funding help jumpstart economic revitalization in the Hudson Valley by creating good-paying jobs, it would also help improve roadway safety and alleviate roadway congestion, especially with the pending completion and opening of the LEGOLAND New York resort as well as Amy’s Kitchen, both located in Goshen.


“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. The traffic on Route 17 is bad enough now, and new projects are only going to increase the bottlenecks and delays,” said Sen. Schumer. “By expanding this key route into Sullivan County, 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.”


New York’s senior Senator has been a longtime advocate for an expanded Route 17, going back more than 15 years.


In 2005, he secured $1 million in federal funds for New York State to study this proposal. In 2013, the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) announced that it had completed this Route 17 Transportation Corridor Study in order to examine the feasibility of expanding Route 17 to three lanes between Monticello’s Exit 103 and Harriman’s Exit 131.


In 2015, the study’s Transportation Partnering Committee (TPC) recommended expanding the interstate to three lanes from Harriman in Orange County to Wallkill, located just west of Middletown in Orange County, but not all the way to Monticello. However, Sen. Schumer, understanding this move was approved before a casino placement was decided in New York State, countered that with construction of a casino in Sullivan County, more vehicular traffic along Route 17 was expected and pushed for the expansion to be extended to Sullivan County.


The TPC committee estimated that there would be a 30% to 50% increase in traffic volume between 2015 and the year 2045, however that estimate was calculated before the impact of economic drivers in Orange and Sullivan counties was considered. Sen. Schumer said that two lanes are not enough to support such growth and travel between the two counties. That is why he is urging nominee Buttigieg to support infrastructure stimulus funding for projects like the three-lane expansion of Route 17.


“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,” Sen. 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.”


In addition to casino development, the opening of the Kartrite resort and other projects, including the growth and pending-popularity of destinations such as LEGOLAND New York, have brought and will bring thousands more commuters to Route 17. Sen. Schumer said that in order to avoid traffic bottlenecks in Orange and Sullivan counties and to maximize the full potential of all of the region’s economic assets, including LEGOLAND, revising the plan and continuing the expansion of Route 17 all the way to Monticello was critical.


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.


Representatives of 17-Forward-86 were emboldened by the reported conversation between Sen. Schumer and the USDOT Secretary nominee Buttigieg.


“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 Maureen Halahan and Marc Baez 17-Forward-86 Co-Chairs.


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.