Gov. Cuomo WAS talking about a Rt. 11 Canton-Potsdam bypass

Gov. Andrew Cuomo at the State of the State address this week. Photo: Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office, via Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivers the State of the State address this week. Photo: Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office, via Flickr

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

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.

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4 Comments on “Gov. Cuomo WAS talking about a Rt. 11 Canton-Potsdam bypass”

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  1. Two Cents says:

    what happens when this new route 11 chokes through Malone?
    Potsdam, blah blah, watertown blah blah , Plattsburgh blah blah,
    what happens in Malone, you know, the county seat.

  2. get outta dodge says:

    This area NEEDS an interstate. Rt. 11 and 37 just don’t cut it. If it isn’t 4 lanes and 65mph it’s a waste of time. If it isn’t near Potsdam and Canton it’s a lost cause, and pointless. It’s not even about what people “want”, it’s about what is desperately needed. Weekly trips to Syracuse from the Massena, Potsdam, and Canton area are quite a chore, but necessary, due to a terrible healthcare system in the area. Most people have to travel quite a distance to see a specialist, and most of that travel is slow going and dangerous due to so many no passing zones and speed zones (not to mention “Sunday drivers”). Shopping? Not around here (and don’t give ME that “shop local” crap, I’ve got 4 daughters and a decent mall is absolutely necessary). There is no decent mall in all of St. Lawrence County, so Watertown or Plattsburgh it is. Nobody can honestly claim that an interstate will make this County better, or bring oodles of jobs and tourist dollars, but it WILL make it easier for those of us who live here to get out of here and back again much more efficiently.

  3. Paul says:

    Certainly an interstate between any two points would make it easier to travel between them. The question here is whether such a road makes economic sense. If the only reason the road needs to be built is for people to go to destinations that they are going to go to anyway then I don’t see it happening?

  4. The Original Larry says:

    Well, if this comes to pass, you can kiss goodbye all the small towns along Rt. 11. What the Northway did to eastern Adirondack towns this road will do to the towns along 11. Yeah, it’s progress all right, but it always comes with a price.

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