Fulton and Montgomery counties may have an opportunity to connect themselves to a brighter, wealthier future via a bypass highway.
Our elected representatives owe it to their taxpayers to at least go ahead and study the idea before killing the proposal because they suspect it will help one county more than the other.
Fulton County officials announced Aug. 22 the federal government approved a $400,000 grant to do a preliminary study of a proposed "connector" bypass highway. The estimated $50 million project would build a highway from Thruway Exit 28 in Fultonville to Route 30A near the Johnstown Industrial Park.
The counties in December filed a joint application with the federal government for the funding.
While the funding from the federal government is secured, both counties must come up with identical $50,000 shares to help pay for the $500,000 study.
According to the Federal Highway Administration, the study will include identifying a preferred route for the bypass and giving a more accurate estimate of the project's total cost.
Fulton County's Capital Projects Committee already recommended adding the county's $50,000 share to its proposed 2013 capital plan.
Officials in Montgomery County have expressed concerns the proposed bypass would not benefit their constituents. Officials say besides the issue of the cash-strapped county finding an extra $50,000 for the study, there is the practical matter of steering tractor-trailers away from Fultonville. A number of businesses could be hurt if truck drivers have no reason to pass through the village, some Montgomery County officials say.
However, there are benefits that could come from building the bypass. Besides easing commercial truck traffic in the villages, the bypass could create better access to businesses in the area, including the proposed Route 30A regional business park near the border between the counties.
As businesses consider expanding into the Capital Region after GlobalFoundries' move to Malta, a bypass might be the sort of thing that lures them in. More businesses would lead to more jobs for residents of both counties, and more tax dollars flowing into local government coffers.
It's uncertain how much longer the federal government will fund studies of this sort, given its own financial issues. Local officials should act now to at least explore the bypass idea. The study, mostly paid for by the federal government, at least would give local municipalities an idea of how the bypass would affect them.