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Governor proposes $2.5 million for north country transportation study

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The scope, scale, and even the specific purpose of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s proposed north country transportation study have yet to be determined, but state Department of Transportation officials say the $2.5 million allocated in the governor’s proposed budget will be enough to do the job.

Mr. Cuomo on Tuesday announced his intention to fund the study while announcing his proposed 2014-2015 budget.

The study will look at ways to improve transportation in the north country, specifically in the corridor between Watertown and Champlain.

Mr. Cuomo first broached the issue in his State of the State address earlier this month. His comments led many area lawmakers to believe that the long-discussed rooftop highway, also called Interstate 98, was finally in the works. However, later clarifications indicated the study will focus mainly on bypasses around Canton and Potsdam along the existing Route 11.

However, the specifics have yet to be determined. Not much progress has been made since Mr. Cuomo’s initial announcement earlier this month, said DOT spokesman Beau Duffy.

“Over the next several weeks we’re going to develop the scope of the study,” he said.

The proposed funding shows Mr. Cuomo is serious about improving transportation in the region, Mr. Duffy said.

“With some of the positive economic developments going on in the north country, it makes sense to take a look,” he said.

A Route 11 bypass study was supported by the North Country Regional Economic Development Council and activists who oppose the creation of a highway.

Transportation in the north country has been studied twice already — once in 2003 and again in 2008 — with little action taken on the findings. The 2008 study resulted in DOT issuing a recommendation to install bypasses along Route 11 near Canton and Potsdam.

It is likely this new study will take a more narrow approach, with a deeper look at the areas surrounding Canton and Potsdam, Mr. Duffy said.

The $2.5 million study could involve hiring private consultants, or it might depend solely on work done by DOT.

“It’s enough. The scope of the study will be developed with the budget in mind,” Mr. Duffy said.

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