MAURICE D. HINCHEY
22ND DISTRICT, NEW YORK
COMMITTEE ON APPROPRIATIONS
2431 RAYBURN OFFICE BUILDING
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20515-3222
Congress of the United States
House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515-3222
June 22, 2004
|Honorable George E. Pataki
Albany, New York 12224
Dear Governor Pataki:
I am certain that you share my concerns regarding the significant delays in the construction of a new access road to Stewart International Airport. The lack of progress in improving access to Stewart Airport from nearby highways continues to undermine efforts to promote development at Stewart and to attract and retain new passenger carriers. It seems clear that the best and surest way to achieve our mutual objectives in this regard is for New York State to re-evaluate alternatives to the current Drury Lane proposal or to explore reasonable compromise in this matter in order to avoid the continued and prolonged delay in the improvement of access to the Airport.
You know, perhaps better than anyone, that Stewart Airport is one of the centerpieces of economic development for the Mid-Hudson Valley region. Stewarts revitalization and continued development are integral to the areas economic vitality. Access to Stewart Airport is currently limited to congested local roadways, a fact that has been identified as a major impediment to attracting new airline service to Stewart and encouraging increased commercial development at the airport.
The federal government has made a substantial commitment to upgrading facilities at Stewart Airport and to improve access to Stewart. In the 1998 Transportation Equity Act, we authorized $20 million to design and construct an upgraded interchange between I-84 and I-87 in order to enhance regional access to the Airport. While this interchange project is progressing forward, the efforts to provide direct access from I-84/I-87 to the Airport remains stalled in federal courts after repeated legal challenges. In fact, a recent audit by the New York State Comptroller noted, "The future viability of the Drury Lane project is uncertain."
It has become increasingly clear that the construction of a new access road has been made unnecessarily complicated and controversial by the specific location of the access road as prospected, witch in the opinion of many, will have a substantial negative impact on the undeveloped lands west of Drury Lane. The organizations that have legally challenged the current interchange proposal have consistently voiced their primary concerns: that the expansion of Drury Lane will lead to the development of the unprotected lands west of Drury Lane, which many in the region, including myself, staunchly oppose. New York States refusal to seriously consider alternatives to the current proposal or negotiate a compromise in this matter has contributed to the lack of progress in construction of an access road.
I hope you will agree that it is critical for New York State to negotiate a compromise regarding the current Drury Lane proposal or re-evaluate the location of the access road itself. One proposal that should be considered is for New York State to permanently designate all of the undeveloped lands ("buffer lands") west of Drury Lane as protected open space in exchange for the projects opponents removing the legal impediments to constructing the road. This would allow the project to move forward while still allowing for significant development on the lands east of Drury Lane, where it is appropriate and less controversial.
Alternatively, NYS DOT and the Thruway Authority should revaluate other alternatives for an access road, which would greatly decrease the controversy and opposition to this road. Perhaps the best alternative is to connect Stewart Airport directly to the New York State Thruway, which will also provide improved access from I-84 upon completion of the new I-84/I-87 Interchange.
I continue to support improved access to Stewart Airport and will work to ensure that the federal government remains an active partner in its further development. I hope that you will consider the aforementioned alternatives so that we may finally move forward on construction of an appropriate access road in a timely manner, which is vital to the future success of Stewart and the economic vitality of the region. You have always supported improved access to Stewart Airport. But that objective may not be realized unless we are willing to see the validity of the issues raised by the local individuals and organizations that oppose the present plan. I am certain that our entire delegation is willing to work with you to ensure a mutually acceptable resolution to this issue, which has lingered in uncertainty for far too long.
Maurice D. Hinchey
Hon. Charles Schumer