SALAMANCA - U.S. Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, is asking Gov. Andrew Cuomo to quickly resolve an impasse over an unsafe portion of Interstate 86 near Salamanca.
Calling the level of the interstate's disrepair "alarming," he said a public safety issue now exists. That assessment comes after the state's unilateral decision to alter 19-year-old construction procedures with the Seneca Nation.
"I am reaching out to you regarding the alarming state of disrepair of Interstate 86 through Seneca Nation territory. I travel that road regularly and notice the significant deterioration of the highway that must be addressed," Reed wrote the governor recently. "This has become a public safety issue that must be resolved as soon as possible ... We must consider the well-being of our constituents who travel this road and the adverse impact on the economic development of the Southern Tier," Reed said.
He concluded by asking the governor to work with the Seneca Nation to reach a solution.
"We are pleased that Congressman Reed, who is among our many respected allies and friends, would urge the governor and New York state to do the right thing," said Seneca Nation President Robert Odawi Porter. "We are all interested in the safety of our roadways for the traveling public and especially our people who use that highway daily."
The Federal Highway Administration inspections and Reed's letter came after nation officials asked the federal government to re-allocate $28.5 million for the nation to reconstruct the 11.5 miles of the expressway outside Salamanca after New York unilaterally changed a construction management practice that's functioned well since 1993. The state received bids on the expressway work May 18, and the contract is expected to be awarded for the project in mid-June. It has been planned for more than two years because the highway is unsafe for motorists.
The section of road, running west from Salamanca past the town of Red House, is a portion of the four-lane limited access Southern Tier Expressway, which stretches from Jamestown to Binghamton. To avoid further delays in reconstruction, the nation moved to replace the state Department of Transportation on the project and obtain and reallocate the federal funds from the state to complete the job.
The portion of the expressway to be rebuilt - a total of about 46 lane miles of highway, ramps and medians - includes two exits for the Allegany State Park. Several drainage upgrades and bridge rehabilitations are also included.
Officials said more than a year of discussions with the state has not produced a consensus on a three-page agreement involving TERO and the project. More than 95 percent of the highway to be reconstructed is on Seneca land and is typically rolling and bumpy with a seriously deteriorated road bed.