Route 219 is part expressway, part two-lane road. The route has been expanded in segments up until two years ago, when work was halted by then-governor David Paterson. Inside the Mahoney State Office Building, some of Western New York's representatives heard from advocates, business leaders, educators and union leaders about why it's important to get Route 219 expansion moving again.
One speaker told lawmakers that an improved infrastructure is critical to luring interested businesses to this region.
"You have to have the ability for them to produce... and yes, there’s energy, low-cost labor, education of the workforce ... but if they can't get their products from where they're manufactured or warehoused to the consumer in a low-cost efficient way, they'll go where they can,” said James Manna of Sonwil Distribution.
Some are calling this proposed 15-hundred mile route "Continenal 1." At least one of the scheduled speakers told lawmakers that business growth is happening elsewhere and an expanded Route 219 could bring both commercial and safety benefits to Western New York.
“The Marcellus Shale drilling that's going on in Western Pennsylvania is really a game changer for Continental 1,” said Meg Lauerman of the bi-national coalition known as Continental 1 . “The heavy trucks that are used to haul water really degrade the roads. A four-lane interstate is definitely going to be a better way to carry that heavy water. Whether or not we have drilling in Western New York, those trucks are going to affect our roads.”
The next step to expansion of Route 219 in the Southern Tier is an environmental impact study estimated at $6 million. State Senator Catharine Young expressed confidence that Governor Cuomo appreciates the impact an expanded Route 219 would leave on local business. She suggested there’s another benefit to expanding the roadway.
“Completion of Route 219 is a safety issue, too, because unfortunately we've had a lot of accidents, a lot of deaths and injuries along that stretch, especially in Cattaraugus County,” said Young. “A lot of people are committed to this project also for those reasons.”