I-98 needed for future economic stability
To the Editor:
There appears to be misconceptions by some people regarding the inappropriate use of federal funds by the NYSDOT Region 7 that are intended to be used for an environmental impact study of an interstate highway.There is no question that Senators Schumer and Clinton as well as Congressman John McHugh intended this money to be used in the initial design and environmental study for I-98.
Recent letters to several newspapers in the North Country are attempting to present an argument that because of the push for I-98 the Regional DOT did not have the funds to upgrade US Rt. 11. There is absolutely no truth to that.
We are all aware of the financial problems our State and Federal Government has faced over the past few years in providing funds for any infrastructure project.
The recent federal funds designated for highway construction were for projects that were “shovel ready”. No such plan exists for US Route 11!
A few years back the Regional DOT office had a public meeting in Canton to discuss bypassing St. Lawrence County communities and constructing what is known as passing lanes or “suicide lanes” as they are commonly referred as.
There was such an outcry by residents of the Canton-Potsdam area that disagreed with the DOT plans that the whole idea was put on hold.
The residents in Franklin County reacted the same way the next night when the DOT gave their presentation in Malone.
That is why there was no plan to use federal funds to rehabilitate US Rt. 11, the plans devised by the regional DOT were soundly rejected.
The Regional office appears to be out of touch with the wishes of the people of the North Country, still!
There are several reasons why people like me are such strong supporters of I-98. I am a lifelong resident of St. Lawrence County, it was my choice after college to stay in the area. I have seen economic activity in my county reach the point that we cannot sustain government services as we have in the past.
I have seen too many of my generation move away to secure jobs and we all complain about our brightest and youngest leaving our area to make a living somewhere else.
The construction of I-98 is a transformational project for our region.
There is no question that our region is hurt by the fact that we lack an interstate highway to move goods into our region and export products produced here to the rest of New York and the country.
We must do everything we can to make our region an attractive site for local companies to expand or to entice expansion of larger companies.
Some people will try to pit I-98 against improvements in US Rt. 11. We deserve both!
For fifty years our region has sat back and allowed others to tell us that we should be happy with scraps thrown our way!
I’m not satisfied with scraps, our region has tremendous resources in materials and human capital.
Our residents deserve the chance to prosper and live in a region that holds some of the most beautiful natural settings and recreational areas.
I’ve been accused of being a dreamer. That is true, I not only dream of the time when our residents can graduate from high school, college or come back from military service and can stay here because there are jobs available.
I dream that these people will have income enough to build new homes and be able to enjoy our rivers and mountains.
I dream of the time when our grandchildren will thank those of us that fought to ensure the opportunity to live in their home communities was made possible because we did not accept scraps.
Vernon “Sam” Burns
St. Lawrence County legislator