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I-98 proponents launching membership drive

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MASSENA — Proponents of building an interstate highway to connect I-81 in Alexandria with I-87 in Champlain are planning a membership and fundraising drive.

Jason A. Clark, the organizational executive for the Northern Corridor Transportation Group, said proponents of the I-98 effort have kept a low profile over the past six to nine months, working behind the scenes on the internal structure of the organization.

“There has been quite a bit of planning and advocacy work that has still been going on. It’s time to get back in the public eye,” Mr. Clark said.

“The focus,” he said, “is still on trying to educate the public on the importance of the project and to educate the folks in Albany about the importance of the project to our region.”

He said the Northern Corridor Transportation Group has reorganized as a nonprofit similar in status to business councils and chambers of commerce.

“We want to be able to make sure our private business leaders are involved. It sends a much stronger message to our colleagues in Albany when the voices of our private sector leaders are showcased,” Mr. Clark said.

“Pretty much most of the original folks are still involved. One of the goals of our membership drive is to bring people with new ideas into the fold as well. It will be an ongoing effort. We will be spending a ton of time over the next three to four months on membership activities,” he said.

While the group raised several thousand dollars from local governments and private groups a few years ago to promote its message, the latest effort is being done on a much smaller scale.

Mr. Clark said coin collection jugs will be placed at local businesses around the region over the next few weeks.

“Your spare change will take us miles,” the canister says.

Mr. Clark said funds raised in the effort will be used to advocate for the I-98 corridor effort.

He said more than 1,000 public officials, from mayors and supervisors to school board members, already have signed resolutions in support of I-98.

“Our work, however, is not done. In spite of all the support that we have generated on the local, state and federal level, the New York state Department of Transportation has not yet committed to initiating the tiered environmental impact review that would serve as a starting point for the project,” according to a recently completed brochure being distributed by the Northern Corridor Transportation Group.

“In order to complete the work at hand, we need to ensure the ability to finance our public education campaign and our advocacy agenda. Your membership pledge will help us continue with this work,” the brochure said, noting there are five major membership levels, with annual dues ranging from $250 per year to $5,000 or more per year.

Mr. Clark said the change canisters offer another option for individuals.

“It allows everyone to participate at some level. At the end of the day, this is really about the future of the north country,” he said.

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