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YESeleven wants new planning council for Route 11

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CANTON — Members of the YESeleven group are urging elected officials in Canton and Potsdam to establish a regional planning council so citizens have input into the long-term future of the Route 11 corridor that links the two communities.

Richard W. Grover, a YESeleven spokesman, urged town and village boards to move swiftly to create the council, saying he’s disappointed that the process hasn’t moved more quickly.

“This is important because no one is talking about the future,” Mr. Grover said. “We want to create a plan that can breathe new life into the Canton-Potsdam community. We are trying to get people to think ahead.”

The group would like elected boards to approve resolutions saying they’ve agreed to collaborate in the establishment of a regional planning council as outlined in Section 239-h of state General Municipal Law.

The issue is urgent, he said, because state Department of Transportation officials from Region 7 are planning to hold public hearings this summer related to their plans for Route 11. The work involves evaluating several locations for potential sites for turning lanes, passing lanes and reconfigured intersections.

He said $6 million has been allocated for the upgrade, which is planned for 2018-19. Depending on funding, additional work likely would be several additional years down the road.

“Our sense is that the Canton-Potsdam community should be prepared and organized to evaluate these proposals and give the DOT the local feedback that will be required to ensure that they meet the needs of the local community,” Mr. Grover said.

Last week, members of YESeleven gave a presentation to the St. Lawrence County Planning Board that included a hypothetical long-range plan and a map of potential upgrades for the Route 11 corridor. According to the plan, initial phases would include creating a bypass around Canton, followed by a bypass around Potsdam. Later phases could include expanding Route 11 into a four-lane highway that would be connected to other highway segments to the east and west.

The session was attended by County Legislator Jason A. Clark, D-Norfolk, a member of the Northern Corridor Transportation Group, which has been advocating for a new four-lane highway known as Interstate 98.

Based on last week’s meeting, Mr. Grover said, he believes YESeleven supporters and I-98 advocates are ready to cooperate rather than compete in terms of the future of the county’s transportation system.

“We’re all in this together,” Mr. Grover said. “We should be working cooperatively and constructively for the future.”

However, Mr. Clark said he believes the two groups continue to have different missions.

“When you consider the original mission of the YESeleven folks — stop the development of Interstate 98 — anything they are doing now is still a means to that end. Period,” Mr. Clark said in an email. “The Northern Corridor Transportation Group is still advocating for safety upgrades to existing U.S. 11 and the development of the Interstate 98 corridor. Nothing has changed.”

He said it’s his understanding that DOT’s plan, as directed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, calls for a stand-alone, limited-access, four-lane bypass from one side of Potsdam to the other side of Canton. The Northern Corridor group supports this plan.

Mr. Clark said he doesn’t support the idea of setting up a separate regional planning council to offer input on Route 11 plans.

“When the DOT is ready to roll the project out, I am certain that they will have a process in place to communicate with municipalities and residents,” he said.

Mr. Grover said the idea of bypasses and I-98 being the same project over the long term could end the divisiveness that he said has “paralyzed” local thinking about the future for several years.

“In other words, this new way of seeing the incremental upgrade and improvement of Route 11 could pave the way for the entire Potsdam-Canton community to work cooperatively and constructively on a long-range plan for the region,” Mr. Grover said.

Thomas A. Jenison, chairman of the county Planning Board, said it makes sense to organize input ahead of the DOT’s hearings.

“The concept of a regional planning committee is always a good thing. If they have something they want to put forth, this is the time to do it,” he said.

Members of the Northern Corridor Transportation Group are scheduled to give a presentation at the county Planning Board’s next meeting at 7 p.m. June 12.

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