On Eve of Key County Vote, Top Traffic Engineers Predict Paralysis on Route 17

NEW YORK (February 9, 2005) -- The five giant new casinos proposed in the Catskills' Sullivan County would generate backups nearly seven miles long on key stretches of Route 17 -- the region's main artery -- and nearly double traffic volume on key stretches of the road, according to a new analysis by one of New York's leading traffic engineering firms.

"That would not only paralyze already heavy traffic on this critical artery, but also cause or increase backups on adjacent roadways such as the New York State Thruway," the firm, Sam Schwartz Engineering PLLC, concluded in a letter to attorneys representing NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council).

The complete letter is available here. The firm examined bottlenecks at Exit 116 in Sullivan County and Exit 130 in neighboring Orange County.

After a week-long delay the Sullivan County legislature is scheduled to vote tomorrow on a resolution supporting the controversial five-casino plan first announced by Gov. George Pataki in December. Lawmakers in Albany and Washington are watching the bellwether local measure closely.

Last week NRDC informed county lawmakers that state law requires a cumulative assessment of the environmental, social and economic impact of all five casinos. The group is urging legislators to wait for findings of such an assessment before voting one way or the other on the five-casino proposal.

"Planting five huge casinos so close together will have an enormous impact on the quality of life in these communities. The surge in traffic will have a critical effect," said NRDC attorney Mark Izeman. "The law says 'Look before you leap.' We think that's a very good policy. It doesn't make sense to vote on this proposal until we have the whole picture."

The letter was sent to Whiteman, Osterman & Hanna LLP, an Albany law firm representing NRDC.