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Route 11 advocates call for bypass study

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CANTON - The North Country Regional Economic Development Council supports a study of bypasses around Canton and Potsdam to ease traffic through St. Lawrence County, a stance seen as a victory by some advocates.

The resolution, which was first passed at a council meeting in September, was lauded by YesEleven, an activism group that supports making improvements to Route 11 rather than building an interstate in the north country as has been proposed previously.

“We were just very glad to see that they recognized that as part of the overall economic strategy, to look into things like it,” YesEleven spokesman John W. Danis said.

The resolution did not include any money to perform the study, only a recommendation that the state Department of Transportation look into the feasibility of building bypasses.

The regional DOT office has yet to receive any information from the Development Council, regional planning and program manager Scott A. Docteur said.

DOT has no plans for a study of bypasses or Route 11 traffic issues at the moment, Mr. Docteur said.

“We don’t have any projects on the books for a bypass around Canton,” he said.

Although Mr. Danis was in favor of the council’s resolution, he disagrees with the assertion that DOT should be put in charge. The study should be done on the local level, he said, perhaps overseen by the county planning office.

“It would be better if the local population were the ones who developed the idea, if that’s what they want,” he said.

Even if a study begins, it will be a long road before its findings could be made a reality. According to Mr. Danis, a bypass around Canton could cost anywhere from $50 million to $80 million, and another around Potsdam would cost even more.

This money just isn’t available, he said.

“You can’t build a bypass right now, but you can talk about it; you can get the preliminary planning done,” he said.

Talk of a bypass in Canton has been bandied about for decades, according to Mr. Danis, but construction on the outskirts of town has made the proposal more difficult.

“The places you can put a bypass are rapidly disappearing,” he said.

With the window of opportunity closing, the preliminary planning would have to begin fairly soon for a bypass to remain a realistic possibility, he said.

The Development Council has taken no further action since September’s meeting, but Mr. Danis said he is hopeful YesEleven will be able to garner more support early next year.

“Hopefully maybe some of this can take on some kind of preliminary form maybe in January and February,” he said.

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