NY State to Senecas: Let us Work on I-90

Thruway Authority says they have been seeking permission to begin repairs

Deteriorating road conditions on I-90 in Seneca Nation. August 2019 (WBEN Photo/Mike Baggerman)

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(WBEN) - The New York State Thruway Authority is pointing the finger back at the Seneca Nation, saying that the deplorable condition of the I-90 as it runs through Seneca territory is due to the Senecas not giving the state permission to do the work. 

"To put it mildly, we have been frustrated that multiple attempts to secure this permission - going back to written requests in May‎ 2014 and September 2017, and an attempt to raise this project again in a meeting this past January - were either met with silence or outright rejection by your Nation's leadership," said Thruway Authority Executive Director Matt Driscoll in a public letter to the Seneca Nation.

The Letter is the latest escalation in the war of words between the State and the Seneca Nation. The issue was highlighted further by Congressman Tom Reed, who has requested that federal prosecutors investigate the Governor's office over their decision to not repair the road. 

You can read the Thruway Authority's entire letter below:

As you know, the New York State Thruway Authority has for years been seeking permission from the Seneca Nation to undertake this critically important milling and road restoration project. 

Our position is simple: the moment you grant us permission, we will make the necessary repairs -- in fact, we are eager to complete this project and are ready to begin work as soon as tomorrow.

To put it mildly, we have been frustrated that multiple attempts to secure this permission - going back to written requests in May‎ 2014 and September 2017, and an attempt to raise this project again in a meeting this past January - were either met with silence or outright rejection by your Nation's leadership. 

The Nation's position going back decades has been that permission needs to be granted to perform this work -- an assertion that you have litigated in court and in fact are still currently litigating the most recent suit brought in 2018. 

Throughout this process, we have tried to work with the Nation and ensure that when work is needed, permission is granted and the health and safety of state personnel is assured. 

Equally frustrating was the prolonged ordeal involving federally mandated bridge inspection work and debris removal on this same 3-mile stretch of the Thruway. A request to perform this work was made in June 2017 and it was formally denied by the Council. ‎In January of this year, I again tried to engage on this issue and other important matters with Nation representatives. Once again, no progress was made.  In fact, it wasn't until this past June when we had to take the extraordinary step of asking the FHWA to do this work on the state's behalf as part of an unwieldy and unnecessarily complicated end-around to what is otherwise routine work.‎ While we are pleased this matter was ultimately resolved, the nearly two year timeline it took to accomplish this resolution was unacceptable and it should not be repeated. 

The continued lack of cooperation has created a safety risk for travelers along that stretch of the Thruway that affects Nation members and other motorists alike. ‎

Again, our only focus is ensuring a safe and reliable roadway for travelers.  If the Seneca Nation is finally ready to begin anew and wishes to act swiftly to move this critically important project forward, we are eager to partner with you. 

All you have to do is grant us permission and let us fix this stretch of road -- just like we fix the other 500 miles of the Thruway.

The sooner this permission is granted, the sooner we can get to work.  We await your response. 

Sincerely, ​

Matthew J. Driscoll​

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