More than 100 community and business leaders from the Hudson Valley zoomed in March 18 for a presentation by the New York State Department of Transportation (DOT) on the status of a Planning and Environment Linkages (PEL) study of the Route 17 corridor in Orange and Sullivan counties. Members of the coalition 17-Forward-86 voiced support for the proposal to widen Route 17 and improve mobility for enhanced safety and economic stability in the region.
State transportation officials outlined the PEL process during the 90-minute virtual public workshop and provided updates about the Route 17 study, which is being initiated by the DOT in cooperation with the Federal Highway Administration. The DOT last year began a scoping and preliminary review process as part of the $5 million PEL study, whose funding was secured with the help of the 17-Forward-86 coalition through the 2018-2019 state budget.
The purpose of the PEL study is to evaluate the engineering feasibility and potential environmental impacts of reasonable alternatives to address the corridor’s transportation needs considering current and anticipated growth in the region. The DOT has begun public outreach as part of the PEL process, which is designed to streamline and accelerate project delivery.
“17-Forward-86 is committed to improving mobility in the region by providing an additional travel lane and other necessary upgrades along Route 17 in Orange and Sullivan counties,” said coalition co-chair Maureen Halahan, president and CEO of the Orange County Partnership. “We are encouraged that efforts to widen the corridor have been moving forward and the PEL study is a critical step in making these long-discussed and urgently needed upgrades a reality. This is our time – for us to bring great economic prosperity to the region and band together for safety and sustainability.”
Following the presentation, attendees weighed in on the proposal to widen Route 17. Supporters cited as priorities safety, enhanced mobility, protecting the environment, jobs creation, economic development and fiscal responsibility.
“Mobility is not a luxury; it is an absolute necessity in our fast-paced economy,” said Ross J. Pepe, coalition member, and president of the Construction Industry Council (CIC) of Westchester & Hudson Valley, Inc. “Enhancing mobility on the Route 17 corridor will improve safety and ease access into and through the region. It will also create more than 13,500 direct and indirect construction industry jobs and many more once the project is completed.”
For more than four decades, CIC has been a leading voice in advancing virtually every major initiative in the Hudson Valley, ranging from capital improvements and replacement of the Tappan Zee Bridge to major urban developments, clean water, regulatory reform and labor issues.
The PEL is scheduled to be completed in October 2021 and the 17-Forward-86 coalition believes the environmental and engineering work should continue to progress to ensure the project is positioned for federal stimulus or other infrastructure investment programs.
“There are thousands of stakeholders committed to seeing this project through and now is the perfect time to move forward as infrastructure investment plans are being developed at the federal and state levels,” said Marc Baez, president and CEO, Sullivan County Partnership and co-chair, 17-Forward-86. “Studies from nearly a decade ago indicate the corridor is already over-capacity and we must prepare for added traffic as more companies invest in 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. To learn more, visit www.17Forward86.org.