Design-Build Project Will Bolster Tourism and Economic Growth While Reducing Congestion and Enhancing Safety Around Woodbury Common
Project Reconfigured the Interchange between Route 32 and Route 17, Replaced the Route 32 Bridge over Route 17, and Added New Commuter Parking
Project Includes New Parking Lots and Access Road for Monroe-Woodbury School District, Allowing School Buses to More Safely Access the Road
New Bridge with Underpass Beneath Route 32 Separates Local Traffic from Visitor Traffic
Governor Cuomo: "No one anticipated the growth of the entire region, nobody anticipated the growth of Woodbury Commons. But the entire road system just did not work... And I want to thank the community that dealt with us through the construction, and also endured the pain and the hardship for all the years leading up to this. But the bottom line is we did it, and we did it together, and it did work, and we did it ahead of schedule and under budget."
Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the completion of the $150 million design-build project at the Woodbury Road, Transit and Economic Development Hub in Orange County five years ahead of schedule and just in time for the holiday shopping season. The Hub provides improved access to businesses and shopping destinations at Woodbury Common Premium Outlets, new park-and-ride capacity and enhanced pedestrian and public transit facilities. The project also enhanced safety, mobility and traffic patterns at the interchange adjacent to the Woodbury Common Premium Outlets, while also strengthening the local economy and boosting the region's booming tourism business.
AUDIO of the event is available here.
PHOTOS of the event will be available on the Governor's Flickr page.
A rush transcript of the Governor's remarks is available below:
Thank you. Wow, what a great day. It is a great day and it is great to be indoors. And you are right, we are not cold today.
First, your County Executive Steve Neuhaus, he has been a great partner and today really show what you can do when you work together. It is a lesson that government has to learn all across this country - especially in Washington DC. When you actually focus on getting the jobs done for people and cooperating and being reasonable, we can do extraordinary things. And that is Steve Neuhaus and today we did an extraordinary thing.
We have Marie Therese Dominguez, the Commissioner of DOT, who has done a great job here. Let's give her a round of applause.
Matthew Driscoll, he is the former Mayor of Syracuse and is now the Director of the Thruway Authority, but he has held a lot of key positions for us. I have learned a new adage: you don't really know someone until you have been through hurricanes, storms, and earthquakes with them. I have been through all of that with Matt and he always gets the job done, Matt Driscoll.
We have Kelly Cummings, my Director of State Operations, who quarterbacked the project for us. Let's give her a round of applause.
Wahid Albert, who is the Chief of Engineering. When they say it can't be done, Wahid finds a way to get it done one way or the other - Wahid Albert.
And I want to thank my legislative partners who are here: Aileen Gunther, Jonathan Jacobson, Karl Brabenec, and James Skoufis. Let's give them a round of applause.
And someone who is not here, he had to be in Washington D.C. so we have to applaud loudly so he will hear us. Sean Patrick Maloney was really all over this project and wanted to make it happen.
So, the County Executive framed toady right. The first issue is that this is about economic development. Why? Because economic development is the County Executives top priority. It is my top priority as Governor. It is about creating jobs. If the economy is running and it is creating jobs then you can do everything else. If you are creating jobs, people are coming to this state, they are attracted to the jobs, they are staying in this state, young people are coming back -it's about job creation. You are creating jobs. You have the economy running. We have a tax base. The County Executive can do good thing. The state can do good things and invest. But you need the economy to be running.
The Mid-Hudson Valley has had untapped economic potential for many years. I believe that. Some places I the state, some places in the country, the economy basically is self-fertilizing. It grows on its own. New York City, that economy just continually renews itself. There are other parts of the state that have the potential, but somebody has to till the soil and do the preparation work to get the economy to actually blossom. And that's the issue in the Mid-Hudson. What does it take to get it going? First, the state has to have the right business climate. Second, you have to have investment capital. Third, you have to have transportation.
State business climate means the state has to be open for business. You can't have the highest tax rates in the United States and think businesses are going to come here or people are going to stay here. That's an old hangover New York arrogance, I call it. You know, one time we thought New York, whatever we did, people couldn't leave because they had to stay in New York, because we're New York, right? Where else would they go? How could they leave New York? There really is no other place to go. Actually, there are other places to go. If you look at a map, you will see New York, and then you see those other shapes next to New York, those are called other states. And people can go there, they've been proven to be habitable. So if you continue to torment people and raise taxes and be difficult, they will leave. And they did leave. And we learned the lesson the hard way. And now we've gone exactly the opposite direction. Brought down state spending to record low increases so we could reduce taxes all across the board. Everybody in this room pays a lower tax rate today than the day I was elected, everybody in this room, period.
And we capped property taxes, which is the largest tax in the State of the New York, it's actually not the income tax, it's the property taxes, which is about double the state income tax. We capped the property taxes and we changed the overall business environment and relationship and we now work seven days a week trying to attract businesses to come here. When the County Executive was talking about Legoland, Legolands of the world can go anywhere and they have every state pitching them to go there. You know how you win? By outworking, outcompeting, by out-soliciting, by putting together an attractive package. And we do that now aggressively and we do it well. But that's the state business climate.
The investment capital is, the old expression it takes money to make money, when you have an area like the Mid-Hudson, somebody has to go first, somebody has to provide the seed capital to start getting that engine running. They say government doesn't create jobs, and it doesn't. It creates some public sector jobs, but government can incentivize and stimulate private businesses to come in. Back to Legoland, we provided an incentive package and now Legoland is coming here and Legoland is going to be creating jobs, attracting visitors who are going to have lunch and dinner and stay in hotels, et cetera. That's what government can do. Provide that seed capital, that investment capital.
And then transportation. You want to develop businesses, you want to develop a community, people have to be able to get there. And that's the transportation system. And you look at how this nation was developed, it followed the transportation system. When we built that road network, Eisenhower all across the country, then development followed. So transportation drives the development. In terms of investment capital, the state has been very aggressive in providing investment capital all across the state. The state economy is really 10 different regions and we attack it as 10 different regions with 10 different regional economic development plans. In total we've invested about $11 billion. But, here in the Mid-Hudson Valley you can see the businesses that we've actually attracted. And we know it's working, not anecdotally, because you look at the numbers, and we have created about 93,000 new jobs and the unemployment rate is down by 50 percent and that says it all.
Housing market is booming - Orange County the housing market has roughly tripled since 2011. And very importantly, young people are coming back. Young people are coming back, and that means the future is coming back. One of the most frightening statistics of the state was when we had a net loss of young people. When young people were going away to college, they were never coming back. Or when a family was saying to their sons and daughters, "You know what, maybe you have to move somewhere else or when a family was saying their sons and daughters, 'you know what maybe you have to move somewhere else to get a job.' That is a death nail for a state. We turned that around and young people are now coming here, especially to the Mid-Hudson valley. We've invested in tourism, which is a very big economic engine for our state. It making us a lot of money all across the state. The walkway over the Hudson has been a phenomenon of a tourism attraction. And Hiawatha State Park we are going to expand the Purple Heart Hall of Fame, that's going to be a national destination. The Empire State Trail, a $100 million. The tourism income has increased from $3.7 billion to $5.3 billion, that's really driving the economic resurgence.
And then it's about transportation. If you build it, they will come. It's true. And we have been building more than any state in the United States of America. We build more than any state in the United States. New LaGuardia, JFK airports, new MTA, $50 billion record investment for Metro North and the Long Island Rail Road and the transit system. We're building a new train hall across the street from Penn Station because going into Penn Station is like going into the seven layers of hell. Amtrak owns it, they don't like it when I say that. Then fix Penn and I won't say it. We're rebuilding the Long Island Railroad, a new second track, a new third track. New airports all across the state - Syracuse, Rochester, Albany, Ithaca. We've had a partnership with the women and men of organized labor that is second to none and they have delivered for us all across the state and I want to give them a round of applause.
And here, the new Stewart International Airport. We're investing 34 million dollars. We want to talk about untapped potential? I think that that airport phenomenal potential. You have the New York City airports that are already overburdened. Cargo going into the New York City airports has to deal with the New York City traffic. I think there's great potential for Stewart and we just had to put in the investment capital to build the facility to make it an international destination.
The cashless tolling on the thruway saves time, saves money. It's an initial investment, but it's going in, it's going in well. Congratulations again, Matt Driscoll. New Newburgh Beacon Bridge, the Governor Mario Cuomo Bridge, 4 billion dollar bridge, largest infrastructure project in the United States of America that new bridge, after 20 years of talking about it.
So the goal is to expedite transportation, right? Make it easy for people to get to you. Certainly don't frustrate people. Don't make it hard to get to you. And that's exactly what we have done in the Woodbury Commons area. By the way, I like Woodbury Commons not just for the tax revenue, but for your style and your charm and your charisma and your personality. And your sales tax revenue. But, Steve you used the word "miserable." It has been horrendous. I mean, Woodbury Commons is one of the greatest international tourist destinations and it has been a horrendous situation to get there. The traffic pattern was designed in the 50s. No one anticipated the growth of the entire region, nobody anticipated the growth of Woodbury Commons. But the entire road system just did not work. And, God forbid, you try to go there during a holiday or a big shopping period. It was really a taxing experience. I drove my daughters one day, I'm a patient guy but I'm not that patient. And I wasn't patient that day. I mean it was really, really impossible. Well, why didn't anyone do anything about it? Because the real answer to do something about it was you had to redesign the entire traffic system. And that is difficult.
And that is ambitious and it's expensive. And we've gotten to a point as a society, we've gotten to a point as a government where you know what, we don't want to take on the hard ones. We don't want to take on the difficult ones. Why? Because they're risky. They're frightening. What if it goes bad? What if the community gets upset? How about all the people who are going to be angry because there's construction and everybody gets angry that there's construction? What if the budget, what if it goes late? Why would an elected official, why would a politician say: I'm going to take on a risky venture? Why? Nobody's done it for 30 years. Just be one of those people who didn't do it for 30 years. That's the safe path. Yes. And that's what we've done for many, many, many years. But it's a path, my friends, that leads nowhere. Because then there is no progress. And there is no improvement. Yes, it's a risk. But if you don't take the risk, you don't get the reward. And the places and the states that just sit in the status quo, they are going to get passed by. Because it's a competition, and everybody else is building and growing and moving. And if you're standing still, you're actually being left behind. And I'm tired of this state being left behind. So we take on the hard ones and the difficult ones, and we did stand up in 2017 and we said we were going to do it and we were going to do it right, and we were going to do it soup to nuts and come up with the full, robust solution. And we did.
There's a new traffic pattern, modelled after a design used in France. I don't know what that means, but that's what it says. We followed the Croissant pattern. What do they call it? The diverging diamonds. It's also a card game. But what it does is it routes traffic on Route 32. So you don't have to stop and wait for people to make the turns off 32, which has been causing a lot of the congestion. Two new bridges, adding additional lengths to 32, and raising the capacity of Route 17 to interstate standards, right. Because Route 17 has been a problem for a long time and we do need a comprehensive solution for Route 17. But elevating those bridges makes Route 17, brings Route 17 up to the standards of an interstate. We had to separate the local traffic from the visitor traffic because the two were intermingled. We built the new underpass under Route 32 with roundabouts on each end. New on/off ramps, reconfiguring access from Route 17 to 32, and from 32 to 17. And a new south entrance and exit for Woodbury Commons, so if people are going there directly, they go there directly without going on the local roads and creating more congestion. We also put in a parking ride, 200 commuter spaces, the more people we can get out of cars, the better, and this will facilitate that. And it was a problem for the local Monroe Woodbury High School, because the school buses were getting tangled in that traffic, and we built a road that connects the high school with the elementary school. It was a massive undertaking, and a lot of people did the impossible on this one. And I want to thank again the Commissioner of Transportation, her entire team; the Thruway Authority, their team worked above and beyond. County Executive Neuhaus was there--whatever we needed he was a great partner. None of it happens without the senate and assembly. Because they had to approve $150 million which is a lot of money. And they had to convince their colleagues that $150 million should go to this project, as opposed to any other project in any other district. But they did a masterful job, and they got that done.
And I want to thank the community that dealt with us through the construction, and also endured the pain and the hardship for all the years leading up to this. But the bottom line is we did it, and we did it together, and it did work, and we did it ahead of schedule and under budget. And at the end of the day, it gets very simple, and we all want to do the same thing, whether we're a governor or a commissioner or a county executive or a citizen or a father or a mother or a significant other. God gives us a piece of time on this place called earth. And it's a relatively short period of time.
The older we get, the shorter the period of time feels. And we have that opportunity to do one thing: leave this place better than you found it. Make it better for you having been here. Leave your children a better world then the world you had. That's it. That's it. Every philosopher says it, every religion says it, every leader says it: do good things while you're here. Make a difference. This will make a difference for Orange County and the Hudson Valley, and for our children, and for their children. Thank you for listening, god bless you.