Pause the Environmental Review Process, Environmental Leaders Request a Meeting with NYSDOT to Rethink Route 17

State and federal officials should rethink how to spend earmarked monies on an alternative, sustainable mobility plan for the Route 17 corridor

Jan 16, 2024 Hurleyville, NY – Despite strong local and statewide opposition, the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) and Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) announced that they are planning to advance the NYS Route 17 Mobility & Access Improvements Project. Documents cited in the project background reference a $1 billion proposal to expand Route 17 in both directions in Orange and Sullivan Counties – a move that will run afoul of state and federal climate laws, increase climate and air pollution, expand sprawl, contradicts documented transit/transportation needs in the area, and will fail to address their stated goal of reducing traffic congestion.

“New York State should not move forward with the out-dated, $1 billion proposal to widen Route 17 in Orange and Sullivan Counties," said Ramsay Adams, Executive Director. Click 'Read More' for the full release.

 


Pause the Environmental Review Process, Environmental Leaders Request a Meeting with NYSDOT to Rethink Route 17

State and federal officials should rethink how to spend earmarked monies on an alternative, sustainable mobility plan for the Route 17 corridor

Hurleyville, NY – Despite strong local and statewide opposition, the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) and Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) announced that they are planning to advance the NYS Route 17 Mobility & Access Improvements Project. Documents cited in the project background reference a $1 billion proposal to expand Route 17 in both directions in Orange and Sullivan Counties – a move that will run afoul of state and federal climate laws, increase climate and air pollution, expand sprawl, contradicts documented transit/transportation needs in the area, and will fail to address their stated goal of reducing traffic congestion. The DOT and FHWA are holding a public information session on January 17, 2024 to unveil their next steps and gather public input.

A diverse group of local, state and national groups, representing thousands of New Yorkers and regional residents is calling for a meeting with transportation officials to rethink the transportation future for the Route 17 corridor before commencing any official environmental review. The organizations–including Catskill Mountainkeeper, Orange Environment, Earthjustice, Regional Plan Association, Tri-State Transportation Campaign, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and Sustainable Hudson Valley– are putting forward an alternative transportation vision for the Route 17 corridor that meets the state’s climate obligations, creates needed jobs, and supports sustainable economic development for the Catskills/Lower Hudson region.

“New York State should not move forward with the out-dated, $1 billion proposal to widen Route 17 in Orange and Sullivan Counties. We call on our transportation agencies to hold off on initiating any official review process under federal law until they’ve developed a plan that will address the real transportation needs of this region – and with without increasing climate pollution, jeopardizing our natural resources and spurring reliance on single-occupancy vehicles,” said Ramsay Adams, Catskill Mountainkeeper’s Executive Director.

“Right now, the state and federal governments are proposing to begin the official environmental review process for their misguided plan in January. We’re calling on them to instead stop and develop an alternative approach that considers the real needs of our region’s residents,” said Michael Edelstein of Orange Environment.  “There’s a billion dollar opportunity on the table to rethink how transportation works here in Orange and Sullivan counties. We don’t need wider highways that will only increase the number of cars on the road and cause more congestion and air pollution.  We need local and regional transit options that serve our neighbors who don’t have a car, make our roads more climate-resilient, and not unfairly burden disadvantaged communities along the Rt 17 corridor.”

In a previous letter to the state and federal agencies about the Route 17 plan, the groups cited three major problems:

  • Expanding the highway will not solve any existing, limited traffic problems. Instead, repeated transportation studies across the country have documented that while adding additional lanes might bring some short-term relief, it very often increases traffic congestion over the longer-term due to so-called “induced demand.”
  • Largely because of this induced growth, expanding Route 17 will increase greenhouse gas emissions. Remarkably, without any support to their claims, DOT suggests that expanding Route 17 would somehow reduce greenhouse gas emissions. An initial analysis finds that the proposal to expand 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 (MMT CO2e) through 2050. This pollution increase is inconsistent with the mandates of the New York State’s landmark Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) as well as national, climate-related transportation policies including the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
  • Widening Route 17 will pose other environmental threats to the region, unnecessarily paving over existing greenspace and slicing through nationally and regionally significant natural areas along the corridor—including the Bashakill Wildlife Management Area, the Shawangunk Mountains, and the Neversink River basin.

By taking the time to pause the environmental review process and instead solidify a better path forward for the Route 17 corridor that centers these communities’ needs for better local transportation, job creation and economic growth, and environmental protection and climate mitigation, we can address each of these original concerns and make some real improvements in the region. We are deeply committed to rethinking Route 17 and are hopeful NYSDOT will be an eager and active partner in this visioning process.


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