Salamanca, NY - The extension of Route 219 to Salamanca has been talked about for years but now there is a new drive to put in a new stretch of the four lane highway.
Supporters say it's an economic development tool for the Southern Tier. Executive Director Richard Zink of the Southern Tier West Regional Planning and Development Board says "This would have a drastic effect on the Southern Tier..it would really enhance Olean and the businesses that are there."
Zink is on the board of the Continental One project and a 219 extension would be part of that overall project. Continental One is a proposed super trade route for trucks that planners and politicians envision from Toronto to Miami. State Senator Cathy Young points out "We wanna have a trade route between Canada and Florida. I think that would greatly enhance our opportunities that we have in Western New York."
But one of the missing links of Continental One is that 24 mile stretch between the current Peter's Road location south of Springville, where the four lane 219 expressway ends, and then into Salamanca. It is a rural two lane road in that area which some say is dangerous. They also say it causes congestion with truck traffic winding through the resort village of Ellicottville. But how much would that extension plan cost.? Zink says "The cost estimate for construction is estimated currently at between 600 and 800 million dollars."
You may recall the four mile 219 extension south of Springville opened in 2010 with great fanfare and a $129 million dollar pricetag. The whole extension plan ended in a roadblock of sorts with controversial remediation after a landslide and the state's budget crisis. Now Senator Young hopes to put it back on track as she seeks $6.5 million dollars in the budget from her legislative colleagues and the Governor for a needed Environmental Impact Study. Young is confident he will listen "The Governor has shown that he is very interested in Western New York's economy so we're trying to get it on his radar."
But a 219 extension could be in competition with the costly downstate Tappan Zee Bridge project for the Thruway Authority. And again there is the cost factor. Zink says "I think I would say that you need to look at the entire picture of infrastructure what's happening with the trade routes across the world at his time." Zink is referring to the upgraded Panama Canal project and the potential move to bring more shipping to East Coast ports.