NORWICH – Nobody likes getting an F, but that’s exactly what U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer said New York highway department officials have scored on their project to improve state Route 12.
The federal legislator told those attending a press conference at Unison Industries Tuesday that the corridor connecting Utica and Binghamton was a “nightmare for the entire region” and the state’s transportation department had “made minimal effort to tackle the problem.”
Unison Industries Director of Operations Gary Cummings, one of several local government and business community representatives in attendance, said Route 12’s unsafe driving conditions handicaps both the aerospace manufacturer’s customers and employees.
“The state has to step up. ... We are nationally recognized for our award winning safety programs at our business, and we can’t do it with Route 12?”
The plan to improve and upgrade Route 12 was hatched by a local task force - led by the Chenango County Chamber of Commerce - and state representatives back in 2000. In 2002, the New York State Department of Transporation picked up the project and hired a consultant to come up with specific short-term improvements and create a plan for long-term renovation. Since then, of the 29 locations recommended for immediate improvement, only two have been completed.
“Six years later, I’m sorry to say the DOT has only two completed. Any way you do the math, that’s an F. Not even a D-minus,” Senator Schumer said.
Schumer was integral in securing an initial $24 million in federal funding for the estimated $40 million project. He said the federal government allocated $1.8 billion for the state NYSDOT last year, and he would work to secure a similar amount for the state again this year. He said the state’s highway officials are “sitting on the money, moving too slowly and not understanding the needs” of the communities in Chenango, Madison, Broome and Oneida counties.