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Update on the "Rooftop Highway"

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Update on the "Rooftop Highway"
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It's been a topic of discussion in the North Country for years: How to improve transportation north of the Adirondack Park. And the discussion doesn't look to be ending any time soon. Barry Wygel takes a look at where the so called "rooftop highway" project is now and who is now speaking out against it.

NORTH COUNTRY, N.Y. -- The words Interstate 98 have been floating around the North Country for years. But there certainly isn't a consensus that the project should become a reality.

"If we look at the realities of the economic situation of the country, this country is broke. We can't repair the bridges and roads that we have now," said Jon Greenwood from the St. Lawrence County Farm Bureau.

Greenwood says his group supports upgrading the existing Route 11 to a rural expressway, creating four lanes where possible and creating bypasses around the major villages. But he worries that building a new interstate would mean farm lands would be split up or taken away.

"If we really want to improve the transportation situation in Northern New York, if we upgrade Route 11 to a rural expressway, we can accomplish many of the same goals," said Greenwood.

But proponents of building the new interstate through the five counties, which includes many municipalities, are still forging ahead.

"So really right now, we are working with the governor's office and that's where we are proceeding from here," said Jason Clark from the Northern Corridor Transportation Group.

Clark says the Farm Bureau's concerns will be discussed, but now isn't the time.

"No specific route has been designated to this point, so to say that farm land will be split up or you'll have all these issues, that's irresponsible at this point because it's simply not understood yet," said Clark.

There have been talks of a rooftop highway in the North Country for 50 years now and there really is no end in sight. If a project is approved, construction could take up to five years.

"As far as the tier environmental impact review, that's roughly a two year, maybe a three year process, depending on when the process starts. As far as construction time thereafter, you could be looking at another four to five years," said Clark.

If the interstate 98 project moves forward, the next step will be for Governor Andrew Cuomo to indicate to the federal government that he wants the project to move forward.

The Northern Corridor Transportation Group says if approved, 93 percent of the funding for the project will come from the federal government.

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