What will aid in public safety, create jobs, open up the region, and bring tourism to Ellicottville and Cattaraugus County as a whole? According to ten presenters at Wednesday night’s meeting of the Route 219 Committee, completion of the four-lane divided highway of Route 219 from Springville to Interstate 86, and beyond.
Business leaders and members of the area political leaders spoke to the committee on the benefits of pushing to complete the expansion project that has progressed as far as just north of Ashford Junction.
Mike Glesk, partner at Bradford Associates, spoke for Zippo Manufacturing Company President and CEO, Greg Booth, in saying that the completion of the highway is integral to the continued success of companies like Zippo.
“Completing 219 will dramatically improve access to the North and to the South for Zippo.,” he said. “All of the industrial operators in the Bradford area and McKean County see the project as integral. As far as Zippo is concerned, it enables us to hire skilled workers and executives. They love areas like Little Valley and Ellicottville and Bradford and Olean but they also like to have access to places like Buffalo and Toronto. The completed highway will make it much more attractive when we look to bring in new businesses and industry. The four-lane access becomes important to those people. A limited access four-lane highway is twice as safe as a two-lane highway.
“Completing 219 is not a political issue, it’s an economic issue. 219 is going to benefit all the constituents of not only Cattaraugus County but Western New York and Pa,” Glesk concluded.
Art Hile, director of finance for Americas and Asia Pacific for Dresser Rand, addressed the importance of completing the highway in improving all around economic factors.
Have you ever driven past Dresser-Rand’s main gate in Olean and see a big 19- to 20-axle tractor trailer with a wooden box in the center of it? Those are products that have to be specially permitted to travel across interstates. They are even required to have police escort. Dresser-Rand ships an average of one of these a week, according to Hile. With the current infrastructure in the region, those shipments that are heading toward the Buffalo-Niagara Region, or even into Toronto, have to travel Interstate 86 to Erie, Pa., where the trucks have to move up The 90 to their destination. The trip adds miles and time to the delivery, Hile said.
“Sometimes, a trip like that could add a week to the delivery,” he said.
A completed Route 219 would give logistics and distribution more of a direct route to their destination. Completion, according to Hile, would make for quicker and easier access for the delivery end of the business.
Two other speakers brought the point home for the ideas of the committee. Sister Margaret Carney, S.T.D., president of St. Bonaventure University, spoke in the form of a letter presented by Thomas Buttafarro, the University’s Director of Operations.
Sr. Margaret addressed safety concerns in a story about a freshman that was on his way back to the school for the start of his spring term. The young man was traveling with his mother and father in very poor weather when, out of the white-out conditions, a vehicle hit their car, head-on. The accident left the student and his mother with minor injuries. His father was killed in the accident.
Her next point was one of access. St. Bonaventure students come from many places. They would have better access to the Buffalo-Niagara International Airport. The school is also home to Division One athletics. Students heading to a game, or athletes on the way to and from contests would be able to travel more quickly and safely.
Crystal Abers, director of the Cattaraugus County Department of Economic Development, Planning and Tourism, addressed the tourism aspect of completion of Route 219. Tourism, a $2 million industry in the county, and the fifth-largest employer in the state, would be able to draw from more and more travel through the area.
“Holiday Valley, Allegany State Park, and the Seneca Allegany Casino do a good job pulling from Toronto and New Jersey, among other places,” Mrs. Abers said. “The three pull in one million to one-and-a-half million visitors a year; and that’s not combined.”
Ellicottville, as a separate entity, has also done a good job in creating a four-season destination, Abers told the committee members. The completion of Route 219 would give people the access to a safer way to get to the area.
Route 219 is part of a system of connected highways that fun from Toronto, in the north, to Miami in the south. That roadway is known as Continental 1.
Project Manager for Continental 1, Meg Lauerman, said the important thing to remember is that inside all of those trucks that would be traveling on the four-lane Route 219 are jobs, She said there is a very good reason to want this route completed.
“We want those trucks full f jobs on the highway to get them out of our towns, out of Ellicottville, out of all the small towns. We want our kids to be able to wait along the road for the bus in safety,” Ms. Lauerman said.
The committee meeting, while attended by representatives of the Cattaraugus County Legislature, area town and village boards, concerned citizens, and representatives of elected officials, was devoid of any representation of the New York State Department of Transportation, despite invitation.
The next meeting of the committee has been scheduled for Oct. 9 at 6 PM, in the legislature chamber of the Cattaraugus County Building in Little Valley.