ALBANY - New York State Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner Joan McDonald today said the agency will reallocate $47 million in funds intended for work on roads and bridges within Seneca Nation of Indians (SNI) territory if a resolution is not reached quickly to allow important transportation work to proceed. DOT is prepared to move forward immediately with a $29 million project to reconstruct 11.5 miles of Interstate 86 in SNI territory located in Cattaraugus County. The project was stalled when SNI leaders demanded exorbitant new fees for work within the territory and failed to negotiate with New York State. If a resolution cannot be promptly reached, funds for this and other projects will be reprogrammed to address other important transportation needs in Western New York.
Future transportation projects planned for the infrastructure within the SNI territory include work slated for next year to replace the bridge carrying Routes 5 and 20 over Cattaraugus Creek; the next phase of I-86 resurfacing from Salamanca (Exit 20) to Route 219 (Exit 23); and general maintenance repairs to roads and bridges as necessary.
The DOT will place in escrow the standard project monitoring and other fees, totaling $1.7 million to be paid to the Seneca Nation for work on roads that cross their territory. The fees will be deducted from $400 million owed to the state and localities by the Seneca from their $4.65 billion in Casino profits in Western NY.
DOT has been ready to start construction since June but delayed work due to the financial demands from SNI leadership, which would have significantly increased the project's cost to New York taxpayers. The fees requested from SNI leaders exceed previously agreed upon rates and now include fees on routine maintenance repairs, not just when work is performed in environmentally or culturally significant areas.
A $1.2 million contract to resurface pavement and replace guiderail along portions of Routes 20, 5 and 951M is also being held up by the SNI. Construction contractor D&H Excavating, Inc., of Wyoming County is ready to begin work today on the project, which addresses roads in Salamanca, Brant and the Seneca Nation in Erie and Cattaraugus counties. The Seneca Nation will not allow construction activities to begin until additional New York State tax dollars are used to pay the newly raised fees.
NYSDOT expects construction will be completed in 2013.