Chenango officials upset with lack of progress on Rt. 12 improvements

NORWICH – New York’s quagmire of regulations has $39 million in federal funds earmarked for Route 12 improvements all tied up in knots. And, according to state transportation officials, tackling those projects finally identified after a nine-year long study will require even more money from Washington.

That’s what Chenango County’s business and government leaders learned last week at a New York State Department of Transportation public hearing on a number of targeted Rt. 12 projects. All aim to enhance safety, speed up travel time and spur development along the heavily traveled, windy, two-lane main transportation corridor from Binghamton to Utica.

While DOT officials attempted to explain the intricate system of regulations that control funding designations and project scheduling, most in the auditorium at the Gibson School left shaking their heads.

“The federal guys say they already gave us money, you guys say we need more money. We go back and forth. I understand your situation, but tell me what to do. Who do you want me to call? How do we get what we need?” asked Unison Industries’ Gary Cummings.

The frustrated executive was part of a Chenango County Chamber of Commerce Route 12 Task Force started back in 1999. The group, which included representatives from Broome, Chenango, Madison, Oneida and the NYSDOT, retained a consultant to study short-term, Phase I projects, and later, long-term Phase II projects.

A Phase I project for the roadway between Chenango Bridge and Kattelville in Broome County was let to bid just last week. None, however, are projected to be completed for Chenango County until at least 2014, and then only with additional funding.

“I don’t know if burned out is the word,” said Cummings. “I’ve been coming to meetings for nine years. I just want it (Rt. 12) so we can pass and we can turn and we can be safe.”

Many of the Town of Norwich-based aerospace industry manufacturer’s 300 employees hail from the Binghamton and Syracuse areas. Because the plant is located directly on Rt. 12 (as is Chenango’s largest employer, the Raymond Corporation in Greene), employees must travel the route with its limited passing opportunities and growing congestion.

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