Standing with Route 17 as a backdrop in the Town of Wallkill, politicians, economic development officials and union members Thursday called on Albany and Washington to commit the estimated $500 million to $1 billion needed to add a third lane in each direction on Route 17 between Woodbury and the Monticello area.

Piece by piece, the existing highway is being upgraded from state to federal standards so that it can be transferred.

The ad hoc group leading the charge for the highway widening, 17Forward86, is hopeful that the five-year state capital budget can be increased to help pay for the project, which has support from both sides of the political aisle.

That was evidenced by State Senators James Skoufis, a Democrat, and Republican Michael Martucci standing side by side backing the project, for which Skoufis had encouraging words.

“I can tell you, as a matter of fact, and the commissioner at the Department of Transportation would tell you as a matter of fact, that this project getting done is not a long a matter of ‘if,’ it’s just a matter of when, and that is great news, because this project is going to happen. Now it is our job to make sure it happens as quickly as possible,” he said as dozens of construction workers cheered him on.

Orange County Partnership President Maureen Halahan said with Governor Hochul announcing her support of upgrades to convert the highway to federal status, the next step is to have her place another $10 million in the five-year capital plan for the third lane.