We have confirmation today that when New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo talked about doing a study to improve transportation and access in the North Country (see David Sommerstein’s story on the comments here), he was talking about a Canton-Potsdam bypass, not a “rooftop highway” as he’d seemed to indicate in the address:
“In the North Country, the proposed route 98 could reduce travel times and speed up commerce…Let’s see if we can make it a reality. We’ve been talking about it for years. Let’s get DOT to undertake a study and see if we can make this project happen.”
Although the language is unclear, it seems he’s saying that 11 can do the job of the proposed interstate without an actual interstate being constructed. The language in the State of the State “book,” distributed to members of the press, is below and better outlines Cuomo’s proposed plan.
Speaking on the phone today with David, North Country Congressman Bill Owens said that even though Cuomo’s proposed study would focus only on a bypass for the Canton-Potsdam area, it represents an incremental approach towards an interstate. “I construe it as the beginning of the process that gets you to a highway that goes from Watertown to Plattsburgh,” he said. Owens also says any loss of traffic from a bypass would be more than compensated by new business locating to the region because traffic moves more quickly. A complete report from David will air on Monday’s 8 O’clock hour and appear at ncpr.org.
Here’s that language from the “book:”
Launch a Study on Potential Improvements to Enhance North Country Access
Residents and businesses in the North Country region have long expressed interest in better connecting I-81 in Watertown to I-87 in Champlain along a route running south of the Canadian border and just north of the perimeter of the Adirondack Park. Numerous projects have been proposed since the 1950s.
Route 11 follows nearly the same route, within a few miles of the proposed highway. It is a vital transportation and tourism link between the cities and village centers of the North Country, which are home to most of the region’s population, employment centers and educational institutions. It passes by the main gate of Fort Drum, then into Canton and Potsdam, which are home to four colleges and universities.27
Over the past ten years, the NYS Department of Transportation has twice evaluated use of this corridor to improve East-West transportation south of the Canadian border: once in 2003, and again in 2008. The evaluations considered several options: constructing a 172-mile interstate at an estimated cost of $6 billion; improvements to Route 11 at an estimated $320 54 million; and construction of five bypasses at a cost of at least $213 million. This past fall, an additional option was endorsed by the North Country Regional Economic Development Council: construction of a Canton-Potsdam bypass.
The highest traffic in this corridor is in the Canton-Potsdam areas, where improved connections could bolster quality of life and result in economic benefits derived from increased tourism and easier access. The NYS DOT will work to immediately add the environmental study for bypasses for Canton and Potsdam and a connector for the two to the State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP). The results of the study will guide consideration of next steps.