Sullivan lawmakers call for widening of Route 17

February 3, 2019

Times Herald-Record

By Matthew Nanci

The Sullivan County Legislature formally added its voice to the chorus of local officials calling for the construction of a third lane on Route 17.

Citing a 2013 New York State Department of Transportation study that found the upgrade is necessary, the Legislature recently passed a resolution asking the department to start processes needed for construction as soon as possible.

That state study concluded the highway should be improved to accommodate current and projected traffic to allow for economic growth in the region.

“While the improvements underway at Interchange 131 near Woodbury Common, and the proposed improvements to accommodate LEGOLAND are welcome and necessary, they will not address the existing and worsening traffic issues along the Corridor,” the resolution says.

Marc Baez, president and CEO of the Sullivan County Partnership for Economic Development, estimated during a panel discussion in 2017 in Goshen that up to 10 million visitors a year will likely travel to the county by 2020.

He’s also the co-chairman of 17 Forward 86, a coalition of stakeholders in Orange and Sullivan counties advocating for a third lane from Harriman to Exit 100.

About 4 million people visited Sullivan County last year and officials expect that to double, in part due to the 50th anniversary of the Woodstock Music & Art Fair, as well as the Resorts World Catskills casino and other developments.

The Kartrite Resort and Indoor Waterpark in the Town of Thompson is scheduled to open in March and the Eldred Preserve is expected to open this year, as well.

Sullivan County Manager Josh Potosek said that adding a third lane in both directions is crucial not only for the economy, but for public safety as well.

To make the region a more attractive place to visit and work in, people shouldn’t have to worry about getting stuck in traffic, he added.

“I think it’s really critical to the long-term economic well-being, both in terms of attracting and retaining jobs and tourism,” Potosek said.

The state put $5 million toward the project in last year’s budget, and now the hope is to get more money in the state’s next five-year capital plan, according to Potosek.

Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther said it’s time for New York to invest in upstate.

She called a third lane for Route 17 a necessity that she hopes the state will expedite.

“If we want upstate to thrive, we need infrastructure,” she said.