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Rough road ahead to repair NYS Thruway through Seneca Territory

Mike Desmond

For five miles across the Seneca Nation's Cattaraugus Territory, the New York State Thruway paving is so bad the Thruway Authority had put up "rough road" signs. Three politicians are charging Gov. Andrew Cuomo is being political in his dealings with the Seneca Nation, leaving the road in bad shape.

The dispute over the Thruway has been going on for years, with the Senecas demanding hundreds of millions of dollars in rent for letting the road cross their land. There are other fights between Albany and the Nation, the biggest being the dispute over whether the Nation can cut off the local share of casino revenues. The Nation is challenging an arbitration ruling the payments have to restart.

Southern Tier Rep. Tom Reed joined two other Republicans, Chautauqua County Executive and State Senate candidate George Borrello and Assemblymember Joseph Giglio, in a news conference on a bridge over the Thruway. The congressman said a settlement has to be worked out.

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News
Rep. Tom Reed stands on a bridge over the New York State Thruway.

"Seneca Nation is a sovereign nation and they are good neighbors and I appreciate the relationship that I have with the Seneca Nation," Reed said. "What this is about is setting aside those disputes. I know the the nation and the state hopefully can sit in a room, set aside the differences that they have, but unite in making sure that the public when they travel through this area is safe on the road."

In a statement, the Seneca Nation said the road needs major repairs and there has to be an agreement on how to do those repairs. Borrello said people should not pay for a bad road.

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News
Here is the condition of the road through the Seneca Territory.

"This is the Thruway. People pay for the right to drive on this road, not just locally, but from across the United States. It costs money to travel on this road and the conditions that are in place now are completely unacceptable," Borello said. "This is another example where the governor has put politics above people and, in this case, possibly threatening their lives and certainly threatening their property with damage."

Borrello said he lives about two miles from the site of the news conference. He said he and members of his family drive the road all the time and it is dangerous.

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News
A message from a driver about the road condition.

Giglio said the bad road interferes with economic relationships with the Senecas and with Pennsylvania residents.

"If you're Andrew Goodell in the 150th and me in the 148th and you keep going down to the state line, those are our neighbors and that's who we do business and commerce with," Giglio said. "This is the first thing tourists see when they come into the State of New York from Pennsylvania. So that's kind of embarrassing."

In a statement, the Thruway Authority said talks are continuing on working out a deal to get the road repaired.