U.S. Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, said Tuesday he supports efforts to begin building the Route 219 Expressway at Interstate 86, east of Salamanca.
The congressman also hinted that a new, three-year Transportation Bill expected to be voted on before 2016 could contain funding for the start of construction, including a bridge across the Allegheny River.
The Cattaraugus County Legislature will vote today on a resolution urging Gov. Andrew Cuomo to provide funding in the next state budget for the Route 219 project.
The $100 million first phase would require $20 million in New York State Department of Transportation funding, with the rest coming from federal sources.
In his weekly press conference with reporters from across the 23rd Congressional District, Reed said, “My hope is that (the initiative) will lead to success. I have been working with local officials, including State Sen. Cathy Young.”
Reed said that the Seneca Nation of Indians plays a big part in the new initiative, but he could not speak for the Senecas on whether they favor the expressway’s construction. Since the expressway would cross the Allegany Territory, the Seneca Tribal Council would have to agree to any construction.
In addition, a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for the 28-mile route between Springville and Salamanca would have to be completed before any construction takes place. The state Department of Transportation has refused to fund the SEIS because future funding for new road construction was seen as unlikely.
“As we deal with the Transportation Bill over the next 60 days, a three-year bill puts Route 219 in a position to be taken care of,” Reed said. “This is something of an important need for our community.”
Last year, Continental 1, the lobbying group pushing for a superhighway connecting Toronto and Miami, changed its focus from extending the current expressway that ends in northern Cattaraugus County, south of Springville, to starting construction at the Salamanca end.
While there was no funding for the SEIS included in the 2015-16 state budget, Continental 1 is gearing up for another push.
There is also some thought that new officials in the Department of Transportation may have a different opinion of the Route 219 Expressway project.
Cattaraugus County and much of the rest of the Southern Tier haven’t benefited from the “Buffalo Billion” the state invested in the Buffalo area over the past four years, said county Legislator Joseph Snyder, R-Ischua.
He is the sponsor of the resolution urging the state to consider Route 219 funding. Continental 1 has made a case for funding through making progress on Route 219 projects in both Pennsylvania and Virginia.
When the state appeared on the verge of extending the expressway into Cattaraugus County several years ago, the county Legislature commissioned studies to encourage development at expressway interchanges as an economic development tool