Montgomery County

Montgomery County backing needed for bypass funding

Without Montgomery County at the table, funding may be a challenge for Fulton County’s proposed bypa

Without Montgomery County at the table, funding may be a challenge for Fulton County’s proposed bypass to bring traffic from the Thruway to the southern edge of Fulton County.

In a statement this week, NYSDOT Region 2 Public Information Officer James Piccola said the project would need to be a joint effort between Fulton and Montgomery counties for any discussion of funding to take place.

“Since the Fonda Connector Project would have impacts on both counties, the counties need to work together in developing a plan,” he wrote, “and once that is done the New York State Department of Transportation would be more than happy to sit down and discuss funding options.”

While the Montgomery County Legislature has not taken an official, unified stance on the subject, County Executive Matt Ossenfort and District 4 Legislator Ryan Weitz released a statement just days before a public information session last month stating their firm opposition to the bypass.

“After due deliberation, we must state, unambiguously, that the proposed project does not make sense for a number of reasons and, as such, we must oppose this project,” they wrote in a two-page letter. “The facts are that the project will have a profound negative impact upon the residents of the Town of Mohawk and businesses in downtown Fonda.”

The proposed bypass would carry traffic from Thruway Exit 28 in Fultonville to Route 30 near the current Johnstown Industrial Park on the Fulton-Montgomery border. The area is also the proposed location for a Regional Business Park, a project that both counties continue to support.

The project was initiated by both counties to help relieve congestion and pollution from heavy truck traffic in the villages of Fonda and Fultonville. Montgomery County pulled out of the project in 2011, leaving Fulton County to put up the full $100,000 local share of the $500,000 federal grant for a feasibility study. The first draft of the study was presented in a public information session Aug. 19, where it met with staunch opposition from Montgomery County residents.

According to the draft report, the bypass would cost between $68 million and about $150 million, depending on which of three routes was chosen.

Fulton County Planning Director James Mraz said Friday that it’s unclear exactly what effect the opposition from Ossenfort and Weitz will have on the project.

“Obviously, a project of this magnitude, having the support of local governments is important,” he said. “And what would that mean going forward? I’m not sure yet.”

He said the county will continue with its feasibility report, since the money is already in place to do so. The next steps will be to evaluate and respond to comments and questions presented at the public information session to develop a final report, he said.

Although the feasibility study specifies that NYSDOT would be the lead agency on the construction, as well as own and maintain the road, it also identifies a variety of other potential funding sources.

“The existence of those programs doesn’t always guarantee that you’re going to get funding, but there are state and federal resources that could be applied for just like we did with the feasibility study,” Mraz said.

Funding was also a concern in the letter from Ossenfort and Weitz, who noted, “This type of project is no longer a priority with federal and state highway administrators and simply is unlikely to be funded.”

They proposed instead looking at “less costly ways of improving the existing route.”

Although the bypass and the proposed Regional Business Park would complement each other, Mraz said the failure of one would not necessarily mean the failure of the other.

“The Regional Business Park project could move forward and not have the Fonda Connector,” he said. “And conversely the Fonda Connector could get built and the Regional Business Park never gets built.”

Reach Gazette reporter Kyle Adams at 723-0811, [email protected] or @KyleRAdams on Twitter.

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