SALAMANCA, N.Y. (WKBW) — The Seneca Nation and New York State have come to an agreement which addresses the need for repairs on a stretch of the New York State Thruway that runs through the Seneca Nation's Territory.
Seneca Nation president Rickey Armstrong, Sr. made the announcement during a press conference Wednesday morning.
Armstrong says the Seneca Nation and New York State have had positive direct communication over the last several days which led to a mutually acceptable agreement.
Work on the first phase will begin over the next several weeks, this will include stabilizing the riding surface and improving lane visibility ahead of the winter.
A second phase which includes milling and paving will follow.
After a long five years, we are very pleased that the Nation finally agrees that this work must be completed as soon as possible. I’d like to thank Governor Cuomo for ensuring safety for all of New York’s drivers by bringing this issue to the forefront and exposing unnecessary delays to repair. As promised, we have crews at the ready who will begin work tomorrow to focus on stabilizing and sustaining the roadway for all motorists as we head into the winter months.
Armstrong declaring a years-long battle with the state over.
“All I know is that knocked on our door and we answered it,” said Ricky Armstrong, president, Seneca Nation of Indians.
The Seneca’s say the State Thruway Authority finally stepped forward with a deal to kick-start much needed repairs to a dangerous and deplorable three-mile stretch of the Thruway that runs thru the Cattaraugus territory.
“When the state engages in direct respectful dialogue - we can make progress on many issues - this agreement is an example of that and i hope to see similar progress with the state on other roads here in Allegany territory,” remarked Armstrong.
The Thruway Authority had said repeatedly it was waiting for permission from the Seneca’s to begin repairs.
Armstrong told reporters Wednesday that there was “no benefit in rehashing” the past dispute between the state or the nation. He said it is now more important to focus on a “positive communication.”
However, Armstrong noted the safety of the roads throughout the territory is important for all motorists, not just those who live on the territory.
“The safety of these roads and people who travel across them deserve the state's attention even if the roads don't generate toll money for the state coffers,” remarked Armstrong.
Drivers were thrilled to learn repairs will final begin.
“We're from Jamestown and we used to come to Buffalo, but we go to Erie because it's a lot easier to get there, the road is much nicer,” responded Margaret Swanson, of Jamestown.
Swanson and her husband were pumping gas at an Indian operated service station and store in Irving.
“So you were actually avoiding it?” Buckley questioned. “Yes,” Swanson responded.
Carla Gibson, of Orchard Park, was also getting gas. She normally drives along that stretch of Thruway at least two times a month and says it is very rough.
“It's noticeable - you do know when you're on that stretch, but for the most part you can still get through,” said Gibson.
“Are you surprised it's has taken them this long to finally come to an agreement with the Thruway Authority and the Seneca’s?” Buckley asked. “Yeah - I’m surprised. You know it's a safety issue, so I’m surprised they weren't on it sooner,” replied Carla Gibson from Orchard Park.
The state will do the work along with workers from the Seneca Nation. It will be conducted and two phases. Phase one will begin in the next few days.
Phase two should only take about ten weeks, but depending on weather conditions it could be complete it before winter. Officials hope the work can be done by winter but Armstrong says factors could cause it to be pushed back to the spring.
Armstrong hopes the positive communication between the Seneca Nation and the state on this project leads to other projects across the Seneca Nation also being completed.
Watch the full press conference below.
New York State Senator Tim Kennedy issued the following statement on the resolution between the state and Seneca's:
"The announcement of a mutual agreement between the Seneca Nation and the Thruway Authority to properly repair this roadway is a victory for drivers who rely on this infrastructure every day. I applaud both sides for working together to reach a resolution that will ensure this road is properly maintained. These improvements will enhance public safety and have an immediate impact on residents throughout Western New York."