My Turn By Maureen Halahan: Investing in our region’s quality of life, economic well-being

My Turn/Maureen Halahan

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  • The 17-Forward-86 coalition, representing more than 150 stakeholders in Sullivan County, Orange County and beyond, believes expanding Route 17 between Harriman and Monticello is vital to the quality of life and the economy of the Hudson Valley and Sullivan Catskills.

  • Maureen Halahan

Orange County is one of the fastest-growing counties in New York state and, for more than a decade, we have been seeing a boom in economic activity.

But we’ve reached a fork in the road. We must invest in our infrastructure and expand the Route 17 corridor to ensure our quality of life and economic well-being.

Here’s why.

• Plans are under way for a major expansion at Woodbury Commons in Central Valley, including two hotels, more restaurants, a luxury spa and an additional 140,000 square feet of retail space.

These new amenities will only add to the allure of our premium shopping center – one of the Hudson Valley’s most popular tourist attractions with 13 million shoppers a year.

• In Goshen, LEGOLAND New York Resort is investing $350 million to open its largest-ever family theme park – with rides, attractions and a 250-room hotel – on 150 acres.

The renowned park is expected to draw 2 million visitors a year – and it joins a number of other developments that will drive even more tourists to our region.

• Amy’s Kitchen, the natural and organic food purveyor, is building a 369,000-square-foot manufacturing plant on 60 acres in Goshen.

• And Stewart International Airport in New Windsor continues to fly high, logging a 44 percent increase in traffic last year.

In addition to attracting millions of visitors, these projects will be creating thousands of jobs.

Add a third-lane on Route 17 from Harriman to Monticello

We’ve been fortunate. But as our county and region continue to grow, we need to meet the demand and ensure the safety of everyone traveling our roads.

That is why we’re calling on New York state to join our effort and allocate $500 million in its capital plan to expand the Route 17 corridor in Orange and Sullivan counties.

Over the last year, we’ve been in discussions with local stakeholders and New York state elected officials and agencies about the importance of adding a third lane on the Route 17 corridor.

After a lot of hard work and conversations, we officially launched our coalition – 17-Forward-86 – on March 6 in Albany.

With more than 150 members, we represent the diverse interests of stakeholders in Sullivan County, Orange County and beyond who understand that expanding Route 17 is vital to the quality of life and the economy of the Hudson Valley and Sullivan Catskills.

Strengthen the economy, improve quality of life

Adding a third lane from Harriman to exit 103 in Monticello will strengthen the region’s economy by improving access for tourists and businesses, while enhancing commuter safety and reducing environmental damage from vehicular emissions caused by idling motorists.

It will also improve quality of life for residents who face increased traffic on side roads as commuters try to get around Route 17’s congestion.

Between the improvements to Woodbury Commons, the growth at Stewart Airport, and new ventures such as LEGOLAND, this project will be critical to ensure we can accommodate the increased level of activity and prepare for a prosperous future.

Maureen Halahan is the president and CEO of the Orange County Partnership in Goshen and a co-chairperson of 17-Forward-86.

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