Rep. Tom Reed, R-NY-23, is calling on the state of New York to fix a stretch of Thruway that runs through Seneca Nation territory.
He said the five-mile stretch is more than just rough, it’s defective and it’s become dangerous to drivers.
“We are here to send a message to the governor’s office and to the Department of Transportation that this road is in deplorable condition," Reed said during a press conference.
The difference is apparent for drivers on the New York State Thruway. As they enter Seneca Nation territory, the road goes from well-paved to rough and bumpy.
“This one section is really bad and they really need to fix it. If they’re going to charge a fee for it, they should have a decent road to drive on," Brant resident Ron Mason said.
Reed said he’s never received a clear answer as to why New York has let the road deteriorate, but he believes it likely has to do with ongoing disputes between the Senecas and the state over casino revenue and other issues.
“It’s clear to me that this involves things that have nothing to do with who’s responsible for maintaining this road, who’s responsible for making sure that it’s a safe thoroughfare to our community because all the parties agree when you ask that question, this is a state responsibility," he said.
Reed on Thursday sent letters to the governor and the federal transportation secretary asking for the necessary repairs. And for legal purposes, he formally put in writing his opinion that this road is defective.
“So that if and when, God forbid, someone gets injured or killed as result of this defective condition that there is no question of the liability and of those that should be held accountable," he said.
The Thruway Authority said it is working with the Senecas to move forward with a contract to rehabilitate the road. A spokesperson said the state is working with the community to mitigate disruptions but Reed believes this is all petty politics.
“You’ve got the governor’s office using the safety of the public as a bargaining chip to try to put pressure on the nation in order to resolve those other dispute," he said.
The congressman and other Southern Tier leaders at the news conference said there are similar deplorable conditions along Routes 219 and 417 in Salamanca and Reed also wrote to the Transportation Secretary about those roads.
“The Seneca Nation has regularly approved resolutions that provide for routine maintenance of roadways that cross our territories, but the repair work needed on these roads goes far beyond routine maintenance," a spokesperson said in a statement. "Thousands of travelers, most of whom are non-Seneca, travel these roads every day. The longer the needed repairs are not completed, the more dangerous the situation becomes for all travelers.”