SALAMANCA, NY - There was a recent change made to the portion of the Southern Tier Expressway which runs through the Seneca Nation's Allegany territory.
Though it may not be readily noticeable to many motorists, the State of New York says the change was made in an effort to be “good neighbors” to the Seneca Nation.
What's In A Name?
The changes involved removing mile markers, which highlight the road’s designation as “I-86” through the territory.
Instead, only the smaller “reference markers” (designating the road as Rt.17) remain.
Reference markers are small 4”x4” green signs with white numbers, which appear approximately every one tenth of a mile along state highways.
According to the New York State Department of Transportation (DOT) I-86 still technically carries the Route 17 designation for reference purposes, so department traffic engineers determined it was acceptable to have that appear on the mile markers.
Indeed, long after the road was re-assigned as I-86, the reference markers, which indicated its designation as NY Rt. 17, remained.
Simmering Sign Dispute.
“There's still unfulfilled promises from the Southern Tier Expressway agreement," said Seneca Nation president Todd Gates during a recent interview with WGRZ-TV.
At that time, Gates confirmed that the designation of the expressway as Interstate 86 several years ago was a lingering bone of contention, according to Gates, as the move was made without necessary consultation and approval of the Seneca Nation for the portion of the road that runs through its territory.
“We still call it Route 17,” said Gates. “They renamed it I- 86. We don't like that because that was another case where they didn't live up to the agreement that they made with us."
“My understanding is that this was a request that came from the Seneca Nation and to be good neighbors that request was complied with,” said NY Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul.
According to the DOT, the work was done on a recent Saturday in order to have minimal impact on traffic. It did not respond to questions posed by 2 On Your Side regarding the cost of the work, or if those costs were increased by having to pay state workers an overtime rate to perform their task on a weekend.
Larger signs along the expressway still designate it as I-86, and the DOT says it has no intention of taking those down.
Meanwhile, talks remain at an impasse between the Seneca nation of Indians and the New York State Thruway Authority, regarding how to address a crumbling section of the Thruway (I-90) through the nation's Cattaraugus Territory.