Blame Game

State Eager To Repair Stretch Of Thruway

Photo by Greg Fox

The blame game is in full effect over the status of a 3-mile stretch of road on the New York State Thruway.

Both the Seneca Nation of Indians and the Thruway Authority took turns blaming each other for the lack of work on the damaged stretch of highway. Matthew J. Driscoll, executive director of the Thruway Authority, said in a letter to the nation the repairs east of Exit 58 at Silver Creek are a “critically important milling and road restoration project.”

“Our position is simple: the moment you grant us permission, we will make the necessary repairs — in fact, we are eager to complete this project and are ready to begin work as soon as tomorrow,” Driscoll wrote.

“To put it mildly, we have been frustrated that multiple attempts to secure this permission — going back to written requests in May 2014 and September 2017, and an attempt to raise this project again in a meeting this past January — were either met with silence or outright rejection by your Nation’s leadership.”

The stretch of road has been in the spotlight recently thanks to a pair of press conferences by U.S. Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, and Chautauqua County Executive George Borrello.

Both have taken on the state for the lack of work on the road. Compounding matters, in August, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the road would not be fixed due to an ongoing dispute over casino payments by the Senecas to the state.

“The Nation’s position going back decades has been that permission needs to be granted to perform this work — an assertion that you have litigated in court and in fact are still currently litigating the most recent suit brought in 2018.

“The continued lack of cooperation has created a safety risk for travelers along that stretch of the Thruway that affects Nation members and other motorists alike,” Driscoll said.

“Again, our only focus is ensuring a safe and reliable roadway for travelers. If the Seneca Nation is finally ready to begin anew and wishes to act swiftly to move this critically important project forward, we are eager to partner with you.

“All you have to do is grant us permission and let us fix this stretch of road – just like we fix the other 500 miles of the Thruway.”

Following Driscoll’s statement, the Nation fired back: “For years, the Seneca Nation has made every accommodation for the state to complete routine maintenance on its roadways that cross our territories. There are larger transportation infrastructure needs that need to be addressed in a comprehensive way. We have not been able to get the state to the table for those discussions.

“As far back as 2017, the Thruway Authority has canceled and rescheduled meetings with Nation officials to have a comprehensive discussion regarding important transportation issues. The bridge inspection work noted in the Thruway Authority’s letter is, in fact, a perfect example of how the Thruway Authority refuses to cooperate with the Seneca Nation. The Seneca Nation offered to conduct the overdue bridge inspections ourselves, using a certified highway inspection consulting firm. New York State refused to allow the inspection to proceed. It was then at the Seneca Nation’s request that the Federal Highway Authority stepped in to resolve the impasse and conduct the necessary inspections.

“If the state is finally ready to take its obligation to public safety seriously and come to the table to address the many transportation-related issues that exist on Seneca Territory in a comprehensive way, the Nation remains ready to have that dialogue.”


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