LINDLEY, N.Y. - With tractor trailers zooming through the intersection with Watson Creek Road on nearby Route 15, a ceremonial groundbreaking was held Monday to mark the beginning of the last segment of four-lane Route 15, from Presho, N.Y., to just north of the state line with Pennsylvania.
The 5.5-mile section of two-lane highway will become a memory by 2012, according to New York State Department of Transportation Regional Director Peter E. White.
The section of the $80 million project, which will be done in two segments - the first for the road and the second for the six bridges needed - will be funded partially with federal stimulus money and the rest from the National Highway System, Appalachian Development money and New York state bond money, according to White.
CHERYL R. CLARKE/Sun-Gazette
Ground was broken in a ceremony Monday for the final segment of Route 15 between Presho, N.Y., and Watson Creek Road in Lindley, N.Y., just north of the Pennsylvania state line. Participants from left include Interstate 86 Coalition Chairman and Chemung County legislator Ted Bennett; New York Assemblyman James Bacalles, R-Corning; New York Sen. George Winner Jr., R-Elmira; New York U.S. Rep. Eric Massa, D-Corning; New York State Department of Transportation Regional Director Peter E.
White; and former Appalachian Thruway Association member and former Tioga County Commissioner O. Richard Bartlett of Wellsboro.
"There are at least four funding streams for this," White said.
The $45 million for the first phase, the roadway and related site work, already is in hand and the project is under way, White said. The remainder of the funding, some $30 to 40 million for the bridges, will have to be found, he added.
Mark Murawski, president of the Route 15 Coalition, who did not attend the groundbreaking, said in a telephone interview late Monday that his group and the New York based I-86 Coalition are working closely together to come up with the funds for the bridgework, which he thinks could cost as much as $53 million.
"The Route 15 Coalition has been working for the past decade to get this project shovel ready, and this shows New York state and Pennsylvania are on the same page," he said.
A ribbon cutting for the last section to be completed, from Tioga to just north of the state line beyond Lawrenceville, was held last October.
White, along with New York politicians, Sen. George Winner Jr., U.S. Rep. Eric Massa and state Assemblyman James Bacalles, hefted shovels full of dirt in a parking lot of a building owned by the department of transportation.
Also participating in the ceremony were longtime community activist Ted Bennett, 78, chairman of the Route 86 Coalition, and former Tioga County Commissioner O. Richard Bartlett, a longtime member of the Appalachian Thruway Association and another activist organization, which has pushed for the completion of the four lane highway since the 1960s.
"Once this section is complete, it will be completely four lane from Interstate 180 in Williamsport to Interstate 86 in Corning, N.Y., and will be eligible for federal interstate designation," White told the 50 or so people in attendance.
The distance of the entire roadway is about 80 miles, he said, and efforts have been ongoing since the 1970s to make it a four-lane highway.
"We are making a highway that will be a lot safer," White said, adding that since the inception of the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement, truck traffic has increased on the roadway to 40 percent, with a lot of it coming from Mexico and Canada.
The increase in truck traffic, while necessary for commerce, also has made the last section of the road to be completed that much more dangerous for motorists.
"We are so thankful to the people of Lindley for their patience," White said, adding that rumble strips have been added to the roadway to keep motorists from falling asleep and drifting into the opposite lane, such as the fatal accident near Lindley in September of last year in which a Wellsboro woman died.
Bennett said he has had that and other accidents in which people were injured and killed on Route 15 in mind all the years he has been pushing for the project completion.
"I've really been involved with Route 17 (now Interstate 86), since I was elected Chemung County Legislator in 1975," Bennett said. "Both projects go back 30 years," he added.