In her budget announcement, Gov. Kathy Hochul said the project will “accelerate the conversion … fueling transformative levels of economic growth in the region and improving quality of life by easing congestion.”
Lobbyists with the “17 Forward 86” coalition have spent the last five years pushing for the funding needed for the project to move forward.
Coalition members and others had said this was the perfect time for the project, with the state due to receive $5 billion from the federal government under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed by Congress and signed into law by President Joe Biden.
“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, formerly known as the Orange County Citizens Foundation. “Safe and reliable mobility is a priority for us all, and now we have the opportunity to get the environmental studies going and chart the best path forward.”
The Route 17 project is also being hailed as a job creator.
Greg Lavelee, business manager of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 825 and also a coalition member, said New York “must seize opportunities to get our economy back on track.”
“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,” Lavelee said.
Hochul noted previously completed DOT projects already upgraded sections of Route 17, including reconstruction of the Exit 131 interchange, where the highway meets the Thruway and Route 32 near Woodbury Common, and the reconstruction of exits 122 and 125 to meet interstate standards near Legoland New York in Goshen.
The environmental impact study will analyze all the work planned along the Route 17 corridor to ensure it will have a minimal negative effect on the environment surrounding the highway. While the study will begin this year, Baez said he is not sure how long into next year it will stretch or when construction will begin. That, he said, depends on what the study finds.
“Things might come up, and they might have to tweak the plan,” Baez said.