The 17-Forward-86 Coalition is hailing the recently approved New York State budget that includes up to $1 billion for the environmental review as well as construction of the long-awaited project to add an additional lane and make other necessary upgrades on Route 17 as part of the new five-year state Department of Transportation (DOT) capital plan. In announcing the FY 2023 budget, Gov. Kathy Hochul noted the fundingwill be used to “accelerate the conversion of the Route 17 corridor in Orange and Sullivan counties to Interstate 86, fueling transformative levels of economic growth in the region and improving quality of life by alleviating congestion.”
“We thank Gov. Kathy Hochul and the State Legislature for making Route 17 a priority for investment,” said 17-Forward-86 Coalition co-chair Maureen Halahan, President and CEO of the Orange County Partnership. “This project will improve mobility and safety in the region by making much-needed upgrades to Route 17. It’s been a long road to this point, and we’re overjoyed to see this project finally move forward now that the necessary resources have been allocated.”
17-Forward-86, a broad-based coalition of industry, trade and civic representatives, has long been advocating to improve mobility and safety in the region by adding an additional travel lane along Route 17 to convert the corridor to Interstate 86 in Orange and Sullivan counties.
“This is welcome news for our residents, commuters, visitors and other travelers in the Hudson Valley and throughout the region,” said Sharon Soons, Executive Director of Vision Hudson Valley, and coalition member. “Safe and reliable mobility is a priority for us all, and we now have the opportunity to get the environmental studies going and chart the best path forward.”
The Coalition recently hosted a rally in Middletown with local, state and federal representatives to urge Gov. Hochul and state legislators to commit construction funding as part of the NYSDOT capital plan by using part of the more than $5 billion in additional funding earmarked for New York State under the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
“As New York State continues to rebuild, we must seize opportunities to get our local economy back on track,” said Greg Lalevee, Business Manager, IUOE Local 825, and member of the 17-Forward-86 Coalition. “One of the surest ways to do that is to get people to work and to attract investments here in Orange and Sullivan counties. Infrastructure plays a key role in all of this and upgrading the Route 17 corridor will go a long way toward helping our region recover and prosper. The construction project itself will create good-paying jobs and the end result will be a safer and more efficient means of transportation for all residents and visitors in the Hudson Valley.”
In the budget announcement, Gov. Hochul cited “landmark investments” in the Hudson Valley that have resulted in the expansion of Woodbury Common and construction of Legoland and Resorts World Catskills Casino. The governor noted several DOT projects that have already upgraded sections of Route 17, including reconstruction of the interchange at Exit 131, where Route 17 meets I-87 and Route 32 (Woodbury Common) and reconstruction of exits 122 and 125 (Legoland) to meet interstate standards.
“We are grateful to the governor and our local, state and federal lawmakers – and to the thousands of stakeholders working with us to see this project become a reality,” said 17-Forward-86 Coalition co-chair Marc Baez, President and CEO of the Sullivan County Partnership. “This is good news for our residents, visitors, first-responders and all those who travel Route 17. We now have the chance to improve safety on this corridor and ensure sustainability for generations to come.”
The NYSDOT issued the final Planning and Environment Linkages (PEL) study for the Route 17 corridor in November 2021. The PEL report was based on extensive public outreach and provides the path forward to address current and future transportation needs on Route 17. The PEL confirmed previous NYSDOT studies, including a 2013 study sponsored by Sen. Chuck Schumer, that identified an additional travel lane, safety upgrades and enhanced park-and-ride lots as necessary to address safety and mobility needs across Route 17. Now, with funding in place, the DOT can commence the EIS, which is expected to be accelerated and streamlined due to the previous analysis conducted during the 2013 study and recently completed PEL processes.
ABOUT 17-FORWARD-86: 17-Forward-86 was established in August 2018 by representatives of economic development, construction, environmental stewardship, tourism, business, health care and energy companies who support the expansion of Route 17. The coalition of more than 100 members shares a vision of expanding the capacity of Route 17 to strengthen the economic well-being of the Hudson Valley and Sullivan Catskills.