The 17-Forward-86 Coalition is hailing the start of a draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) on the long-awaited project to add an additional lane and make other necessary upgrades on Route 17 in Orange and Sullivan counties to covert the corridor to Interstate 86. Gov. Hochul made the announcement Oct. 5 and said she expects public outreach and involvement efforts to begin in early 2023.

“As we continue to improve our infrastructure across the Empire State, we are laser-focused on delivering smart projects like this monumental investment in the Mid-Hudson region that maximize impact on regional economies,” Gov. Hochul said.

The launch of the environmental review follows the inclusion of up to $1 billion in the recently approved New York State budget to accelerate the conversion of Route 17 – funding for which the 17-Forward-86 Coalition had been advocating.

“We thank Gov. Kathy Hochul and New York State 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. “We’re so encouraged to see the environmental review get underway, which will move this crucial project forward. These much-needed upgrades will improve mobility and safety in our region, and lay the groundwork for building a sustainable future.”

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 I-86 in Orange and Sullivan counties. Earlier this year, the Coalition 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 New York State Department of Transportation’s capital plan by using some of the more than $5 billion in additional funding earmarked for New York under the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

“Investments in infrastructure are investments in our future,” said Greg Lalevee, Business Manager, IUOE Local 825, and a member of the 17-Forward-86 Coalition. “The Route 17 construction project itself will create good-paying jobs and boost our local communities. The end result will be a safer and more efficient means of transportation for everyone in the Hudson Valley and the region.”

New York State Sen. James Skoufis said, “For decades, travelers have heard talk of a ‘future’ Route 17 to I-86 conversion. Thanks to constant advocacy from legislators and our partners in labor, I’m thrilled to say that the ‘future’ is now. When completed, this interstate will serve as a vital connector and tourism corridor for the Hudson Valley and the Catskills, buoying our economy with new jobs and easier access to the exceptional amenities, shops, restaurants, and activities this region is known for.”

New York State Assemblymember Aileen Gunther said, “The fast-tracking of Route 17 to Interstate 86 will lead to increased revenue and prosperity in both Orange and Sullivan counties. Thank you Gov. Kathy Hochul.”

In the 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.

“Our region is growing, and we must ensure our roads can handle the added capacity now, and in the future,” said 17-Forward-86 Coalition co-chair Marc Baez, President and CEO of the Sullivan County Partnership. “This is an important step forward in our efforts to enhance mobility on Route 17 and, in turn, improve safety for residents, first responders, businesses, visitors and all of those who travel this corridor. We’re grateful to our thousands of supporters and our elected officials who have been working to make this project a reality.”

The DEIS will build upon the completed Planning and Environment Linkages (PEL) study for the Route 17 corridor, which NYSDOT issued in November 2021. 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. The DEIS will assess the conversion of Route 17 to interstate standards, and perform a full NEPA assessment of alternatives starting with those identified as reasonable in the final PEL report. NYSDOT expects to publish a final EIS for the project in 2025. The DOT is also progressing contract plans to finish Stage II of the Exit 122 interchange project to enhance the westbound ramp system. Construction is expected to start in the spring of 2024. 

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.