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Senecas question safety of state's bridges and roads

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Along with a dispute with New York State over alleged violations of its casino compact, the Seneca Nation of Indians is now questioning the safety of state bridges and highways on the Nation's territories. 

Governor Andrew Cuomo was denying reports yesterday that his effort to expand casino gaming across New York was influenced by $2 million in donations to a lobbying group created to support him. 

On Monday,  Cuomo raised the rhetoric in his battle with the Seneca Nation of Indians over casino revenue sharing payments by saying he would conditionally allow a non-Indian casino in Western New York. 

Seneca President Robert Odawi Porter calls the developments coming out of Albany "interesting." The casino revenues,  Porter said,  have gone into a trust fund  since three local racinos opened. 

"We have a dispute with the state that's in arbitration. We're going to let that process  stay its course. In the mean time, we're going to follow through on our promises to complete this Buffalo Creek Casino and
live up to our side of the agreement." 

The Senecas, however,  are concerned about the state's maintenance of highways and bridges. Porter says this week Federal Highway Administration engineers inspected bridges over the Thruway and Cattaraugus Creek,  along with sections of Interstate 86 near Salamanca.

"The highway (I-86) has not been maintained in years. The state has changed its policy in terms of compliance with our laws. They now have indicated they will not comply with our laws at all," Porter said. 

"That's a real problem for us. We're not going to allow any work to proceed in violation of what our laws require."

Seneca officials are considering detouring Thruway traffic around the bridges near Silver Creek, which inspectors deemed past due for inspection and probably faulty.