State lawmakers press DOT commissioner on Route 17 widening

The state transportation commissioner got an earful during a recent budget hearing from lawmakers pushing for the addition of a third lane on Route 17 to ease growing tourist traffic on a central artery through Orange and Sullivan counties.

Four of the region’s legislators – Sens. James Skoufis and Jen Metzger and Assemblymen Jonathan Jacobson and Colin Schmitt – took turns asking Marie Therese Dominguez on Jan. 28 about an awaited study on Route 17 traffic and urging the Department of Transportation to include money for the widening its next capital plan. They noted the long quest for a third lane and the tourism sites that have arisen in the meantime – a casino and water park in Sullivan and a nearly completed Legoland theme park in Orange.

The DOT commissioner indicated the traffic study would start in April, but made no commitment to scheduling construction funds.

When asked by Schmitt about not doing so, Dominguez answered, “We’re committed to doing the study to make sure we see what the alternatives are and how we would approach what the path forward is.”

She then came in for a grilling from Skoufis, who demanded to know why the study has taken so long to start after lawmakers approved the $5 million to fund it 22 months ago. And he he questioned why the DOT can’t budget construction funds in the second year of the two-year capital plan that it will soon release.

He told her municipal leaders and other stakeholders who support the road widening “are sick and tired of hearing ‘we need more time.'”

“If this doesn’t happen there is only stakeholder who is to blame, and everyone will know it, and it will happen very publicly,” Skoufis told her.

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