A new plan announced by the governor has local tourism officials excited about the possibility of getting motorists off the New York State Thruway and to some of the area's historic sites, museums and cultural attractions.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has enlisted a roster of prominent historians throughout the state to advise the Thruway Authority on creating the "Path Through History" initiative, which includes installing new signs along the interstate directing travelers to local attractions and placing history information kiosks at rest stops.
"Signage has always been an issue," said Crystal Ricciuti, head of tourism in Montgomery County. "And increased signage will increase our visibility along the Thruway."
A blue sign gives visitors information on Johnson Hall in Johnstown on Thursday at the Pattersonville rest area on the New York State Thruway in the town of Florida.
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The project is designed to boost New York's heritage tourism trade, Cuomo said in announcing the initiative during a Cabinet meeting March 8 in Albany. Heritage tourism is a key segment of the state's multibillion-dollar tourism industry.
There are two Thruway rest stops in Montgomery County. The eastbound Mohawk stop doesn't have any tourism information, but a large blue sign outside the westbound Pattersonville area has a sign promoting Johnson Hall, the baronial home of Sir William Johnson, in Johnstown.
"The Thruway is, more than any other route in New York, the main thoroughfare through the state," said Terry Swierzowski, tourism director and interim president of the Fulton County Regional Chamber of Commerce & Industry. "As a tourism professional and going to meetings, we're always grumbling about how the signage isn't cohesive."
The 570-mile Thruway system includes the 496-mile "main line" that runs from New York City to Buffalo. The main line - composed of interstates 87 and 90 - cuts through the Mohawk Valley, a region rich in American history from the Colonial era through the Industrial Age.
Cuomo's plan calls for putting up signs along the highway and local roads alerting motorists to the proximity of local historic sites and museums, and installing "Pathway to History" information kiosks at some of the more than two dozen Thruway travel plazas.
The cost of the proposed project is unknown.
"It looks like a great initiative that can't hurt," Swierzowski said.
There are historic sites throughout the area, including old Fort Johnson, Fort Klock in Fort Plain and Fort Hunter's Schoharie Crossing, all in Montgomery County. All the sites along the Route 5 corridor have easy access to the Thruway, making it easy for a motorist to get off at either Amsterdam, Fultonville or Canajoharie.
It's a little more difficult for Fulton County, which is about five miles from the Thruway. The plan could give motorists a reason to venture farther off the highway and check out places such as Johnson Hall or the Fulton County Museum in Gloversville.
"We're especially happy about this [being in Fulton County]," Swierzowski said. "They're driving this from the recent renovation of the New York State Capitol. Part of the outcome of that was the information center. They know that worked, and are making it happen throughout the state."
Mike Zummo is the business editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Associated Press contributed to this story.