As Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced in his budget address, $2.5 million has been allocated to analyze the Route 11 corridor in the North Country. But state transportation officials say they have not yet determined what kind of highway study they're going to do.
When Cuomo mentioned Interstate Route 98, aka the rooftop highway, between Watertown and Plattsburgh in his budget speech last week, he acknowledged a range of opinions on the decades-old idea.
"This is a roadway that the North Country has talked about for a long time," Cuomo said. "Different people have different opinions over whether it will work."
State Department of Transportation spokesman Beau Duffy says there is $2.5 million for a North Country transportation study. But it's not necessarily about an interstate, or a Canton-Potsdam bypass, as Cuomo's State of the State briefing has indicated.
"It's hard to speculate because we haven't worked out the scope yet," Duffy said.
That will happen in the coming weeks. Duffy says the study will piggyback on what he calls forward momentum in the North Country's economy.
"Transportation infrastructure is vital because that’s how goods get to market, that’s how people get to work," Duffy said. "So with the positive momentum that’s happening, now makes a good time to look at what do we have to do from a transportation standpoint to further that momentum and keep things going in a positive direction."
Just the mention of the highway study in Cuomo’s speeches is a major political coup for the North Country’s leaders. All of the region’s top politicians support construction of an Interstate from Watertown to Plattsburgh, which is estimated to cost $6 billion.