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I-98 supporters claim detractors misinterpreting Governor’s comments

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CANTON —The Northern Corridor Transportation Group and hundreds of thousands of people who support improvements to the north country economic development platform are lauding Governor Andrew Cuomo’s support for further, more detailed, investigation into the feasibility of developing the Interstate 98 transportation corridor, according to a release issued this week by the transportation group.

One week ago today, Governor Cuomo, as part of his 2014 State of the State address delivered in Albany, provided an initial outline of his plan to finally bring the Interstate 98 corridor to a reality.

Cuomo’s comments that were also showcased by graphics on wide-angle projections screens that were flanking him on both sides, indicated that the State of New York under his leadership is ready to commit to the initial stages of the most transformational project undertaken in the north country in more than 50 years.

During his address the Governor said, “In the north country, the proposed Route 98 could reduce travel times and speed up commerce. Let’s see if we can make it a reality. We’ve been talking about it for years. Let’s get DOT to undertake a study and see if we can make this project happen.”

Those are powerful words coming from a Governor who almost everyone considers to be very direct and to the point.

Brian Hammond, vice chair of the Northern Corridor Transportation Group, applauded the Governor. “We are thankful to the Governor for recognizing that the north country is lacking the infrastructure for progress.”

The north country region has long lagged the rest of the state relative to new business attraction and job growth in spite of being strategically located due south of the economic powerhouses in Montreal and Ottawa.

Wade A. Davis, executive director of the Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority and chair of the Northern Corridor Transportation Group, supported Mr. Hammond’s claim.

“In 2010, under the Governor’s leadership, the New York state Department of Transportation commissioned a study that evaluated freight needs in the north country. That report clearly stated that economic development initiatives in the north country were at a ‘strategic disadvantage’ because our region lacks access to the Interstate Highway System. We appreciate that the Governor is following through on the recommendations of that report.”

Project supporters are skeptical about suggestions made by some state officials that Mr. Cuomo was simply talking about possible bypasses around Potsdam and Canton.

Henry “Hank” Ford, Colto), a long-time Interstate supporter, said, “ Some of the detractors are trying to muddy the waters by calling the Governor’s intentions into question. They have the right to their opinion but to do so when they have clearly never asked the Governor to clarify his comments in person, well…if frankly puts their credibility into question. They have to live with that when they rest their heads on their pillows, I guess.”

Interstate 98 advocates, however, recognize the need for unity. Anthony “Tony” Arquiett, a Northern Corridor Transportation Group bBoard member, said “the Governor has given our region a real opportunity to transform our regional economy, put our neighbors back to work and build a long-term vehicle to retain our best young talent. We just need to come together as a collective community to embrace this opportunity before us.”

Another Northern Corridor Transportation Group Board Member, Vernon “Sam” Burns, agreed with Mr. Arquiett on the call for unity.

“Over the past half century, the project has certainly had its setbacks. If ever the Interstate 98 project and, frankly, the port of Ogdensburg have been given a push forward, Governor Cuomo did so last Wednesday. We need to stick together.”

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