YESeleven says county’s support of ‘I-98’ and lack of support for Rt. 11 improvements is a mistake
Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - 2:20 pm

A group advocating improvements to U.S. Rt. 11 in the North Country rather than focusing on a proposed Interstate-grade “rooftop highway” say the county’s lack of support for work on Rt. 11 is a mistake.

Jon Danis and John Casserly, co-coordinators of YESeleven, were dealt a setback Monday when the county Board of Legislators voted for a resolution in support of the I-98 concept rather than another resolution that was introduced in support of the state Department of Transportation’s desire to move $6.3 million designated for study of the Interstate plan instead to improvement of U.S. Rt. 11 in St. Lawrence County.

“We withdrew from participating in the Operations Committee meeting on Feb. 13, when we were told that the legislature would not discuss any resolutions with us unless they included I-98,” a statement from YESeleven said.

“We have been saying for sometime that our county legislature is making poor decisions to use taxpayer money, running into tens of thousands of dollars per year, for promotion of this concept while simultaneously exceeding the two-percent tax cap and cutting programs and services to residents and tax payers,” the YESeleven statement said.

“Now, it seems, if DOT is acting within its authority, which is likely the case, we might be at risk for losing six million dollars, which would translate into 20-30 million dollars of economic activity in the Canton-Potsdam area because of the slavish defense of the interstate highway orthodoxy. We further think that the legislature is acting improperly by excluding and suppressing our citizen's organization and its several hundred signed supporters from this discussion.”

“There’s been a fundamental breakdown of clear thinking and respect,” said Danis and Casserly. “Over 500 citizens have signed our online petition, and the majority of our support is from St. Lawrence County. Local governments, such as the Village of Potsdam and the Towns of Lisbon and Madrid, have passed resolutions asking the DOT to give priority to improvements in the Canton-Potsdam area of the Route 11 corridor.” The statement continues, “Newspaper surveys and letters to the editor further demonstrate the local support that exists for improving Route 11. YESeleven had hoped for a meeting of the minds as to what best served our area in the most immediate way because our infrastructure has suffered several years of neglect.”

“We didn’t ask for money or ask legislators to abandon their own ideas,” says Danis. “We just said , ‘Let’s work together to get this money here to create local jobs, give the local economy a boost, and make Route 11, the highway many of us travel every day, safer and more efficient.’”

Members at the full meeting of the board Monday night expressed continued support for I-98 planning, voted 10-2 for a resolution which was substituted for another resolution supporting Rt. 11 improvements.

“It seems many legislators just can’t let go of the ‘I-98’ idea,” said Casserly. “Somehow supporting Route 11 improvements, doing some serious local planning and working together with a group like YESeleven is taboo. It’s very sad. This is a prime example of the price of the ongoing ‘I-98’ drama...the state has decided to spend $6.3 million to improve something we depend upon daily, and St. Lawrence County is acting like it doesn’t want the money.”