Updated 01/23/2012 04:59 PM
Assemblywoman pushing to keep Watertown as DOT Hub
The future of the state's Department of Transportation will be a little more clear this week as a plan to consolidate the agency's coverage areas will be released Thursday. As our Brian Dwyer reports, lawmakers in the North Country say they do whatever they can to make sure their area doesn't get lost in the shuffle.
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JEFFERSON COUNTY, N.Y. -- Governor Andrew Cuomo says he wants the Department of Transportation to consolidate down from 11 regions to six. A restructuring plan will be released Thursday.
Assemblywoman Addie Russell says she has written a letter to Department of Transportation Commissioner Joan McDonald urging her to help keep Watertown, which covers more than 8,600 miles from Jefferson County to Clinton County, as a home base for the agency.
"We are somewhat close to a couple of other regions and I'm not going to take anything for granted," Russell said.
State Senator Patty Ritchie, who's district covers parts of both of the Watertown and Syracuse regions, says she will decide what to do after Thursday's unveiling.
"Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties have local issues," Ritchie said. "Oswego County gets 10 feet of snow in a day. I want to make sure we can rely on a sound infrastructure."
But Russell was very vocal at the State Office Building in Watertown making her case that the city already is a money saver.
"We have a lot of employees here in the Watertown Office in this building, which saves taxpayers money because we're not having to lease additional space," Russell said.
Russell goes farther, saying Watertown's region should be picked to expand. She is touting the recent success of the Regional Economic Development Council.
"I would hope that they would be seen as a regional office that is doing great things," she added. "They have a lot of projects going on. We have a lot of growth here, particularly around the Fort Drum area."
The Watertown Region 7 office is currently working on a massive project to clean up some of the horrific traffic problems around Fort Drum with a direct connector road from 81.
Russell says she does not think any changes to the DOT's regional plan should have an impact on the future of the much talked about rooftop highway that would connect Watertown to Plattsburg.