SALAMANCA - Efforts to repair portions of the crumbling Southern Tier Expressway through the Seneca Nation have hit a speed bump.
And no one knows that better than Erin Kent.
The Corning resident was driving Monday night with her five children on Interstate 86 in Salamanca when her 2012 Chrysler Town & Country Touring hit several potholes - leaving her stranded with a flat tire and two bent rims.
A picture showing a bent wheel from Erin Kent’s van. The damage was a result of an accident Monday on I-86 in Salamanca. Kent sent letters to local and state lawmakers requesting the crumbling road be fixed.
Kent waited nearly an hour and a half for roadside assistance to arrive.
"The way it happened, the waiting for help was scarier than the incident," Kent said Tuesday to The Post-Journal. "They haven't repaired the road in years."
"I hit one pothole and it jerked the van to the shoulder of the road," she continued. "Then I hit a series of potholes."
Kent was driving home from her sister's wedding in Erie, Pa., when the accident occurred. She said a police officer stayed with her until she was able to repair the flat tire.
"Thank God there were no other cars around," she added. "I was sitting on the side of the road thinking, 'What am I going to do?'"
Her five kids range in age from one-month to 12 years-old.
It cost Kent $100 to get a road crew to her vehicle; she said it will cost $135 to replace each tire and hasn't heard back on how much the rims will cost.
She also is waiting to hear a response from her insurance agency on total damages.
Angry and looking for answers, Kent shot off an email to Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning; Joan McDonald, state Department of Transportation commissioner; and Robert Odawi Porter, Seneca Nation president.
She also sent a notice of the accident to all surrounding media outlets. In her letter, Kent questioned the lack of repair to I-86 through the Allegany Territory.
"Why are there massive potholes in that road?" she asked. "Why haven't they been filled in? I almost lost all that is precious to me, for what - I now know - a conflict between the state of New York and the Seneca Nation. The man that fixed my tire said he is called out to this location a lot to fix flat tires caused by the bad roads."
"It was very, very scary," Kent said. "To put my kids' lives at stake for people that want money or a contract ... is very irritating. They could care less if someone is killed with their bidding war going on."
Last week, Porter announced that the Seneca Nation would demand nearly $1 million in fees before state workers would be permitted to repair portions of the Southern Tier Expressway.
The nation president alluded to a Seneca rule, adopted in 1993, which requires a 3.5 percent administrative fee whenever the state performs major projects within the Seneca Nation. The Tribal Employment Rights Ordinance (TERO) would pay for monitoring of the 11.5-mile construction project - estimated at $28.5 million.
State DOT officials called the TERO request an "unprecedented demand."
Porter has asked the the Federal Highway Administration to reallocate the funding to the Seneca Nation so the nation could complete the project.
Meanwhile, Kent said she just wants to see the roadwork completed, regardless of the group doing the project.
"Frankly I don't care whose road it is or who fixes it," she said. "It needs to get done."
Kent said she was contacted by a secretary in Porter's office regarding the accident, although it was only to confirm whether or not Kent was the author of the letter.
She also spoke to Reed's wife, but had not spoken to the Congressman, who is seeking re-election this November.
When reached for comment, Reed said in an email statement:
"We are concerned about the condition of that stretch of highway. Interstate 86 is the main east-west conduit through the Southern Tier and the alarming road condition is becoming a public safety risk. The road must be addressed during this construction season and we are reaching out to state officials to let them know our concern."