Rooftop highway advocates charging I-98 opponents with making false claims
Sunday, December 23, 2012 - 4:59 pm

Leaders of the Northern Corridor Transportation Group are charging opponents of the I-98 highway proposal of misleading people about the plan.

“According to NCTG leaders, comments made lately by those opponents in news stories, online blogs and editorials are often not true either in context or, in some cases, in the outright totality of their content,” said a statement from the NCTG.

The I-98 proposal is one of many envisioned since the beginning of the Interstate Highway system in the 1950, including more modest proposals such as improving the current U.S. Rt. 11 corridor to increase capacity and improve traffic flow.

NCTG leaders said they took particular exception to published comments by Bruce Irwin, a retired NYS DOT official, and others.

In a commentary in the Watertown Daily Times in November, Irwin gave a history of the Interstate Highway system and decisions made along the way regarding plans for a section of Interstate running across northern New York. Irwin said that studies indicated that there is not much demand for the expensive Interstate-standard road the NCTG is promoting. He said the cost-benefit ratio is not in favor of the highway.

According to Jason A. Clark, management consultant and NCTG executive, “First, there are several different cost-benefit models that can be employed need in a case like this, not just the one that Bruce just happened to help create.”

“He also insinuates that because the population of the North Country is relatively sparse, there is not an economic rationale to justify construction of the Interstate yet he fails to reference the potential impact of the 3.5 million people who live due north of the region in southern Ontario and Quebec; it’s deceptive and inappropriate,” Clark said, and claims to have found 23 similar examples in Irwin’s piece that are “purposefully misleading” and at least two references to material that is not true at all, the NCTG statement says.

Detractors point to the Northern Tier Expressway Study (2008) as a “justifiable source to sideline the Interstate 98 effort,” the statement says. Wade Davis, executive director of the Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority and chair of the Northern Corridor Transportation Group is quoted as saying that Irwin’s use of one source of data is irresponsible.

“There are literally scores of feasibility studies and needs assessments that have been conducted over the years,” Davis said. “Opponents never mention the expansiveness of the pro-Interstate 98 dossier. They solely reference the one document, the origin of which is suspect at best, as the staple that fastens their case together,” he said. He cites the North Country Freight Needs Study (2010) and the Business Plan for the Massena International Airport (2011), both of which were funded by the NYSDOT as examples.

Clark accuses opponents of the I-98 plan of having “personal reasons or personal conflicts for wanting to see the Interstate 98 project fail; we respect that.”