LOCAL, STATE, AND NATIONAL GROUPS OPPOSE MISGUIDED PLAN TO EXPAND ROUTE 17 FOR 50 MILES THROUGH ORANGE COUNTY AND THE CATSKILLS

Transportation officials need to go back to square one and develop a plan that fits the needs of the communities, addresses climate, environmental and  justice concerns, and tackles the real infrastructure needs in the Route 17 corridor

Hurleyville, NY - “Our organizations are speaking with one voice, calling on Governor Hochul and state transportation officials to reconsider the Route 17 widening plan and to develop a new plan that truly meets the needs of our communities, addresses the climate crisis, and deals head-on with the real infrastructure needs in the Route 17 corridor,” said Ramsay Adams, Catskill Mountainkeeper’s Executive Director. “We look forward to working with the Administration to develop a blueprint for the Route 17 corridor that becomes a model for the rest of the state and the nation on how to improve and upgrade critical infrastructure that addresses the  real environmental, climate and social impacts of such large projects.”

Click 'Read More' to view the full February 2, 2023 press release.


LOCAL, STATE, AND NATIONAL GROUPS OPPOSE MISGUIDED PLAN TO EXPAND ROUTE 17 FOR 50 MILES THROUGH ORANGE COUNTY AND THE CATSKILLS

Transportation officials need to go back to square one and develop a plan that fits the needs of the communities, addresses climate, environmental and  justice concerns, and tackles the real infrastructure needs in the Route 17 corridor

Hurleyville, NY – A diverse coalition of civic and environmental groups oppose a billion dollar plan  to expand New York State Route 17 for 50 miles, making the road into a six lane superhighway. Advancing this massive highway widening project would not only fail to reduce traffic congestion, but would also run afoul of New York climate requirements to slash greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. 

The state’s plan, a relic of a bygone era, would also accelerate unsustainable rural sprawl, divert resources away from critical mass transit needs, threaten nationally significant park lands and other natural areas, and may disproportionately impact low income communities and communities of color. Widening Route 17 is also inconsistent with federal transportation policies and the use of federal highway monies.

In an effort to bring awareness to the poorly-conceived plan, twenty local, regional, statewide, and national organizations representing tens of thousands of New Yorkers released a letter calling on Governor Hochul to develop an alternative transportation plan focused on moving people and goods without additional additional lanes to Route 17.  

Signatories include: organizations in the highway corridor, such as Orange Environment; regional organizations including the Catskill Center, Catskill Mountainkeeper, and Hudson Riverkeeper; regional planning and transportation organizations including the Regional Planning Association and Tri-State Transportation Campaign; statewide climate justice coalition NY Renews; and national organizations such as the Natural Resources Defense Council and Earthjustice.  

“Our organizations are speaking with one voice, calling on Governor Hochul and state transportation officials to reconsider the Route 17 widening plan and to develop a new plan that truly meets the needs of our communities, addresses the climate crisis, and deals head-on with the real infrastructure needs in the Route 17 corridor,” said Ramsay Adams, Catskill Mountainkeeper’s Executive Director. “We look forward to working with the Administration to develop a blueprint for the Route 17 corridor that becomes a model for the rest of the state and the nation on how to improve and upgrade critical infrastructure that addresses the  real environmental, climate and social impacts of such large projects.”

Transportation case studies from across the country have documented that while adding additional lanes might bring some short-term relief, it very often increases long-term traffic congestion due to “induced demand.” 

“The irony of widening Route 17 is that studies of road projects over the past 40 years demonstrate that whatever gains in flow occur in the short term after road completion are undone by increased traffic volume within a few years,” said Michael Edelstein, President Emeritus, Orange Environment, Inc. “Even the short-term gains may not make up for the congestion caused by years of road construction making the cure worse than the disease.”

Adding third lanes in both directions on Route 17 would induce hundreds of millions of vehicle miles traveled per year—with a total increase of as much as 2 million tons of greenhouse gas pollution through 2050. These increases are particularly troubling given that New York’s transportation sector is one of the state’s largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions (as much as 36% of statewide emissions). Expanding Route 17 runs directly counter to New York’s obligations to meet the greenhouse gas emissions limits in the state's landmark 2019 Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA).

The organizations are committed to working with the Governor and her Administration to find an alternative plan by focusing on reducing greenhouse gas emissions (and other pollution through increased mass transit, zero-emissions goods movement, enhanced ride-sharing and teleworking options, electrified public and private fleets, reduced use of single-occupancy cars, and the creation of more walkable and bikeable communities. Any alternative plan should also ensure – consistent with the CLCPA - that disadvantaged communities receive an equitable share of resources, that these communities do not bear a disproportionate burden of adverse impacts, and that there is fairness in mobility and accessibility for all community members. 

Michael Edelstein of Orange Environment concluded: “Route 17 is the main street of southern Orange County, but increasingly it serves as a conduit for thru- traffic. The expenditure of 1 billion dollars on adding a third lane to Route 17 represents a lost opportunity for improving the lives for Orange County residents. We can use this money in much better ways to enhance our transportation and mobility needs and in ways that could address any  traffic flow issues on Route 17 itself.”


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