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Reed calls for Thruway inquiry

OBSERVER Photo by Jo Ward Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning (left) and Chautauqua County Executive George Borrello host a press conference at the Erie County DA’s Office Tuesday to discuss the section of Interstate 90 that runs through the Seneca Nation Reservation.

BUFFALO — U.S. Representative Tom Reed (R-Corning) and Chautauqua County Executive George Borrello had an appointment with U.S. Attorney J.P. Kennedy Tuesday in Buffalo to discuss issues surrounding the five-mile stretch of road running through the Seneca Nation Reservation near Irving.

“We’re asking the Justice Department to investigate this potential misuse of dollars, that have been rightly allocated to this interstate at the federal level, which has not been deployed to fix this road; and potentially abuse of power by the governor, in regards to not taking care of the travelling public because he is involved in some type of political leveraging scheme in regards to the Seneca Nation Gaming revenue issue,” Reed stated at a press conference in front of the U.S. Attorney’s Office. “To put the travelling public at risk is wrong. It’s time to fix that road immediately and not play political games, misuse an office or misuse federal funds in a way that’s inappropriate.”

Borrello, a resident of Hanover, understands the issue all too well. He sees the condition of the road every day and is furious with its lack of upkeep.

“This is an injustice that is occurring to the residents of Chautauqua County and really anyone that pays to use the Thruway,” Borrello said. “We have had now, since this was brought to attention just a couple of weeks ago, thanks to the media, more outreach from the traveling public than ever before. This is something that has been ignored largely by our governor, for the last three years at least, now we’re talking about it again.”

According to Reed and Borrello, they’ve heard from multiple individuals both in and out of state that have traveled that length of road. According to the pair, there have been a number of vehicles that have suffered damage. One constituent allegedly suffered $4,000 in damages to their vehicle and RV due to the subpar conditions of the road. According to Reed, the state allegedly denied their claim.

Reed went on to share how the federal government has allocated approximately $10 million in funding to repair it, but the big questions that led to Reed and Borrello meeting with Kennedy is where has the funding gone? And how do you carry out a “political vendetta,” according to Reed, with an “adversary on an unrelated matter?”

“That’s one of the requests that we’ve made here today, because if that money, tens of millions of dollars has come to the state, has been appropriated and authorized by the federal government, where are those dollars? Where are they sitting? Have they been applied to other sources,” Reed questioned. “The governor often talks about budget shortfalls at the state capital. I think it’s only right to ask the question, where is that money? Where is that money going?”

Reed went on to cite Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul’s public comment in early August, which was shared through various media outlets, that the “Thruway issue is ‘independent’ of the dispute over the Seneca cutting off casino revenue sharing payments to the state.” Reed stated that it suddenly seemed odd, in his opinion, “that all of a sudden, Gov. Andrew Cuomo comes out and says, ‘yes, it has everything to do with the gaming revenue.’

“Why is the rest of the highway taken care of? Why is this five-mile section targeting a group of individuals, the Seneca Nation? What is going on here? All I can think of is it’s an abuse of power, it’s a misuse of dollars that is being deployed by the governor’s office,” Reed added.

When asked of the Seneca Nation’s response to the issue, Reed shared a statement released by Senior Elected Seneca Nation President Rickey Armstrong, indicating that ‘“they (the Seneca Nation), stand by their approval of routine maintenance to this Thruway. … They were obviously upset,” Reed said. “The nation repeatedly approved routine maintenance on the Thruway for the state’s obligation to maintain that roadway. This red herring of a dispute with the nation over accessing the Thruway and repairing the Thruway is obviously contradicted by the actions of the Nation themselves. Maintaining this road is the state’s obligation, there is no dispute about it.”

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