LINDLEY, N.Y. - Nearly a year after a groundbreaking here to signify the beginning of work on the New York state portion of Route 15, about half of the $32 million needed has been secured for the seven bridges on the five-mile stretch in Steuben County between Lindley and Presho.
The project will be funded with $27 million from the Appalachian Regional Commission plus the state's 20-percent match of $5.7 million, said Ted Bennett, Chemung County legislator for District 10.
"By placing the bridges during the construction of the highway, it allows the completion of the new highway two years sooner and allows the elimination of the last five miles of the 'highway of hazards' - Route 15 - two years sooner than now scheduled," Bennett, chairman of the I-86 Coalition and a member of the Route 15 Coalition, told the Sun-Gazette this week.
The ARC funds accumulate at the rate of about $9 million per year and are available this year, 2011 and 2012, and according to Bennett, the pending federal re-authorization bill and the New York State Transportation bill would help cover the required local match.
Bennett sent an open letter to 37 members of the New York State Legislature representing the 20 counties of New York State west of Broome County, which would "directly benefit from the completion of the New York/Pennsylvania Interstate 99," asking them to "give the project the urgency it deserves" and urge Gov. David Paterson to provide the funding up front, thereby accelerating the completion of I-99.
With the present scheduled completion of the project, Bennett said, the designation of the road will be delayed five years "because Pennsylvania will be ready to go, and New York isn't."
Pennsylvania Department of Transportation District 3-0's last portion of the project from Williamsport to New York will be completed by the fall of this year, he said, and allowing Pennsylvania to seek interstate status, he added.
Though the first phase of the Route 15/Interstate 99 project, the road work from Watson Creek to Presho is underway with a programmed completion date of fall 2012, according to the New York Department of Transportation. The second phase, which includes the bridge work, will not be completed under its current schedule until 2015.
In Pennsylvania, the highway network created by the completion of Interstate 99 will connect every interstate highway located within New York and interstates leading into Pennsylvania, Bennett said, accommodating the ever increasing truck traffic into Pennsylvania as the Marcellus Shale "gas rush" continues to ramp up.
Bennett noted that the project needs to be finished for safety as well as economic reasons.
"Completing this final section sooner rather than later will reduce death and injuries and begin the economic growth and opportunity the project promises, bringing a new interstate from Pennsylvania into the heart of upstate New York, joining I-86," Bennett said.