Orange County Partnership - News

County Executive Neuhaus Says Route 17 Expansion is Vital for Hudson Valley Region

By John Jordan


Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus in a recent interview said that if Congress passes a large federal infrastructure bill, one of the first projects in New York State that should be funded is the expansion of Route 17, which could come with a price tag of more than $1 billion.


Neuhaus, in an interview with Real Estate In-Depth, said the Route 17 project “should be the first one done in New York State. They could do what they want in New York City, they have a lot of infrastructure issues too, but this is a region that is growing. You see massive commercial and residential development. Residential development in Southern Orange County is off the charts. You are going to need to match that with a transportation system that actually works.”


He cited the recent opening of LEGOLAND New York in Goshen, the planned Dinosaur Park in the Town of Wallkill, as well as the upcoming major expansion at the Woodbury Common Premium Outlets in Central Valley as just some of the projects that would benefit from the expansion of Route 17.


He said that U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, along with other New York State elected officials, should all be advocating for the Route 17 expansion.


When asked what the fallout might be if the Route 17 expansion project is not undertaken, the County Executive responded, “You are going to have Planning Boards that are going to say, ‘We love the project, but it is just not doable with the current infrastructure.’”


The New York State Department of Transportation recently held a webinar on its ongoing study of the possible expansion of Route 17. The DOT PEL study, which is expected to be released at the end of October, estimated the cost of the expansion at anywhere from $245 million to as much as $1 billion, depending upon the scope of the project.


If the study recommends the construction of a third lane, the least expensive option would add a third lane in the existing roadway footprint for a stretch of 20 miles from the I-87 connector in Harriman to the Route 211 exit (Exit 120) that would cost an estimated $245 million to $315 million. To broaden the scope of the project to run a stretch of 45 miles extending the third lane to Route 17B (Exit 104) in Monticello would raise the cost of that option to between $550 million to $710 million.


A second option would involve widening the existing roadway to accommodate the third lane expansions in both directions. The estimated cost of this option for a third lane covering 20 miles from southern Orange County to Middletown would run between $350 million to $450 million. The project cost for the 45-mile stretch from southern Orange County to Monticello would run between $790 million to $1 billion.


John Cooney, a member of the 17-Forward-86 Coalition, said, “Our federal and state leaders have made Route 17 improvements a priority. Governor Cuomo has spearheaded upgrades at Harriman and at LEGOLAND, and Senator Schumer has spoken directly to US Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Buttigieg, on the need to upgrade the Route 17 corridor to increase safety and promote economic development.”


Cooney, who is executive director of the Construction Industry Council of Westchester & Hudson Valley, Inc. in Tarrytown, added, “With a significant increase in infrastructure funding being considered at the federal level and the support of Congressman Maloney and our federal, state, and local representatives, there is increased optimism that the much-needed and well-documented safety and capacity improvements along Route 17 will finally come to fruition.”


Marc Baez, co-chair of the 17-Forward-86 Coalition, said of the June 3 workshop, “It is encouraging that efforts to widen the Route 17 corridor are moving forward and the PEL study is a critical step in this process. The message from Washington is that infrastructure investment is a priority, with a focus on transformative projects that have significant local support. The Route 17 improvements are consistent with those objectives. This is an opportunity for us all to focus on safety and sustainability, as we strive to continue to ensure economic prosperity for our region.”


17-Forward-86 was established in August 2018 by a dedicated 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. Orange County Partnership President and CEO Maureen Halahan is co-chair of the coalition.