Senecas, New York Reach Agreement to Fix Stretch of Thruway
SALAMANCA, N.Y. (AP) — A nearly 3-mile (5-kilometer) stretch of the New York State Thruway that has crumbled amid conflict between the state and an Indian tribe whose land it crosses will be repaired under an agreement announced Wednesday.
Urgent repairs will begin Thursday on the dangerously deteriorating section of Interstate 90 running through the Seneca Nation's Cattaraugus Territory, Thruway Authority Executive Director Matthew Driscoll said.
Seneca President Rickey Armstrong Sr. said "direct communication" with state officials over the last several days led to the agreement to allow crews to begin work on the western New York reservation.
The roadway has been caught up in various disputes in recent years, including over whether New York had the proper permission to build on Seneca territory when it constructed the 500-mile (805-kilometer) Thruway across New York in the 1950s.
In a pending federal lawsuit, the tribe seeks to stop the state from collecting tolls for the disputed 2.7-mile section until the issue is settled. The suit claims a permanent easement obtained by the state for $75,000 in 1954 wasn't valid because the transaction lacked federal approval.
Tensions also are simmering around whether a revenue-sharing agreement connected to the tribe's three casinos has expired. The Senecas are appealing an arbitrator's order to continue to make payments to the state, as outlined in a 2002 compact.
Motorists, in the meantime, must slow from 65 mph to 45 mph on the reservation, where the roadway is noticeably more rough and rutted than the stretches before it and after.
"New York state, not the Seneca Nation, receives toll revenue from everyone who travels this state roadway across our territory," Armstrong said. "The Seneca Nation wants to see these repairs completed."
The Thruway Authority hopes to complete the work before winter if the weather permits, Driscoll said.