I-98 a big waste of taxpayer money
Wednesday, December 15, 2010 - 12:30 pm

To the Editor:

The New York State DOT has it right. We do not need a 4-lane super highway cutting the entire North Country region in half. Upgrades to the Rt. 11 and Rt. 37 highways, spanning the Watertown to Massena corridor, are the most cost effective and least intrusive ways to create efficient transportation corridors in the area where business development is likeliest.

Our existing bridges, roadways, water and sewage systems are falling into the lakes and rivers and crumbling into the ground. In spite of our inability to find the resources for maintaining the infrastructure that we have, the Northern Transportation Corridor Organization proposes that we spend $4 billion to build a 175 mile long, 4-lane, limited access, super highway from Watertown to Plattsburgh. The mantra that they repeat over and over is that I-98, “... will create 27,000 jobs”. I have seen no critical analysis of this number or any data on where and when these jobs will happen. Their view seems to be, “Build it and they will come”. These optimistic forecasts for development seem to be more of an advertising campaign, than anything based on unbiased and critical research. These 27,000 jobs would have to exist at a rate of $50,000 per year, per job, for thirty years, just to approach the break-even point of their estimated cost of building I-98. I have yet to hear of any project of this magnitude coming in at a cost even close to the original estimates.

Here is just a partial list of points to ponder. Where is the proposed footprint of I-98? What is to become of the bypassed communities? What about the hundreds of landowners who will be kicked out of their homes and off their land to build I-98? One can only imagine the stampede of companies vying to set up shop at Churubusco Corners. Who will pay to maintain and repair this behemoth? Who will pay for and build the infrastructure, (water, sewer, access roads etc,) to support industrial development? The Buffalo to Albany corridor has major rail and airport infrastructure. CSX just reduced its service to Ogdensburg and Massena due to lack of demand. Our closest large airports are Syracuse and Ottawa. Is all of this in the plan? Or, will this be phase two, three and four of a project without end? How many more billions of dollars will have to be added? As I look at the history of business in our area, I see no evidence that businesses left the North Country due to a lack of transportation infrastructure. Quite the contrary. Transportation left due to a lack of business.

How many readers are aware that the I-98 group has gone to all of the town boards, county legislatures, business groups, political parties, the state legislature and most recently, the federal secretary of transportation, systematically signing up support? Do you know that if the state legislature passes legislation authorizing this project, we North Country residents will have no say in the matter whatsoever? Do you know that if the money comes from the federal government that the project must go to a nation-wide bidding process and that there can be no guarantee of any local jobs? How many millions of taxpayer dollars will be needed to subsidize start-up companies with PILOT deals and other financial incentives to locate here? I do not believe that I-98 is the best or most cost-effective way to improve transportation through the North Country.

John Danis, Rensselaer Falls