OLEAN, N.Y. — U.S. Rep. Tom Reed said Monday he thinks the recent decision by U.S. Route 219 supporters to concentrate on the Salamanca end of the proposed expressway “is a step in the right direction.”
Speaking to reporters during a telephone press conference, the Corning Republican said he had discussions recently with Seneca Nation of Indians President Maurice John in which the new focus on the southern end of Route 219 was brought up.
Hooking a Route 219 Expressway section to Interstate 86, east of Salamanca, in the town of Great Valley would require passing through a half-mile of the Senecas’ Allegany Territory. The 1.6-mile section from the Allegheny River to the Salamanca rail yards — including twin bridges and a half-mile long raised section of the highway — would cost about $100 million.
Any highway route across the Allegany Territory would need the permission of the Seneca Tribal Council. There are also some conditions past Seneca administrations have insisted upon before giving permission to cross Seneca territory.
Reed said he hoped common ground can be found with respect to the Nation’s sovereignty and to the benefit of all of the 23rd Congressional District.
“We need to work together,” Reed said. “Differences can be worked out through talking.”
Federal funding of the Interstate Highway project is critical, Reed said.
“It’s a legitimate project with real return on investment to the area,” he explained. “If an interchange is there, the more we can show we are committed. We’ve had some difficulties demonstrating to Albany and Washington this type of investment has a return on investment.”
Reed said as investment in Buffalo grows, it will become apparent that leaders “have to get those (new) products and freight to market.” A new four-lane Route 219 can be justified with increased economic activity in the Buffalo area and the need to move agricultural products, he explained.
A Route 219 Expressway through Cattaraugus County linking to new corridor construction in Pennsylvania and pointing south will go a long way toward Continental 1’s objective of a superhighway trade route linking Toronto with Miami.
A Route 219 interchange at Interstate 86 east of Salamanca would also help the county’s largest manufacturer, Dresser-Rand, get its large shipments to the Buffalo area more quickly and efficiently.
Reed said he has been working to extend the Route 219 Expressway south from the Springville area since he was elected to Congress, and it remains one of his top priorities.
Meanwhile, Reed and his Republican colleagues in the House continue to brainstorm on increased funding for the Highway Trust Fund, which would fund 80 percent of the project.
The proposal to use a portion of some of an estimated $2 trillion in U.S. taxes held by overseas companies remains one of the options to replenish the Highway Trust Fund.
“Hopefully, we’ll find revenue to do a long-term (highway) bill,” Reed told reporters.