BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Another punch was thrown Tuesday in the fight over a bad stretch of The New York State Thruway that runs through the Seneca Nation. Rep. Tom Reed asked federal prosecutors to investigate Governor Andrew Cuomo over his decision not to immediately fix the road.
That portion of I-90, near the Silver Creek exit, is approximately five miles long. It’s so bad the speed limit drops 10 miles per hour to 55 mph. According to Reed, the worst part of it has an International Roughness Rating of 296. The U.S. Department of Transportation says a good rating is less than 95.
“We’ve had constituents reach out who have suffered $4,000 worth of damage,” Reed said before walking into U.S. Attorney J.P. Kennedy’s office in Buffalo.
In a letter he delivered to Kennedy and U.S. Attorney General William Barr, Reed asked the prosecutors to “investigate the Governor and his office for the misuse of federal funds, the abuse of power, and any and all other federal crimes, related or unrelated, uncovered in this investigation.”
Reed said he wants prosecutors to figure out what the state is doing with more than $10 million in federal money that he says has been allocated that that highway.
“Where are those dollars? Where are they sitting?” Reed asked.
The move from Reed, a Republican, comes in direct response to comments Cuomo, a Democrat, made last week, in which Cuomo said the state won’t go in to do the repair work because the Seneca Nation “will oppose it”. Cuomo added he didn’t want to jeopardize the state’s position in a dispute with the Nation over millions and millions of dollars in casino revenue payments.
“When we settle the larger issue on the revenues, I believe the I-90 issue will be resolved,” Cuomo said on August 20th. “I don’t believe it’s about I-90. I believe it’s about the tens of millions of dollars that are actually in dispute.”
Earlier this year, arbitrators ordered the Seneca Nation to make those payments, a ruling the Nation subsequently challenged.
Arguing against Cuomo’s remarks, Seneca Nation President Rickey Armstrong said, “For years, the Seneca Nation has routinely approved resolutions for routine maintenance on this stretch of the Thruway.
“There has been no meaningful dialogue or outreach from the state, only public posturing and political rhetoric.”
On Tuesday, Cuomo’s senior advisor Rich Azzopardi rebuked Reed’s request, calling it a cheap stunt.
“Weaponizing law enforcement to score dumb political points may be what the congressman’s buddy the president does, but it doesn’t mean it’s right,” Azzopardi said.
A spokesperson for Kennedy’s office did not immediately respond to request for comment.
Reed’s letter reads as follows:
Attorney General Barr
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20530
Dear Attorney General Barr,
I am concerned for the safety of the traveling public along the stretch of Interstate 90 which runs through the Seneca Nation. According to U.S. Department of Transportation data using the International Roughness Index (IRI), a good road has around an lRI of around or below 95, and an acceptable road has an IRI between 95 – 170. As seen attached, the IRI for the part ofl-90 that runs through Seneca Nation is “poor.” The worst part of it is rated at 296. There is a small portion of the road that is around a 157.
However, if you have ever driven this stretch of road yourself, there is no need for a bureaucratic table to tell you this stretch of road is in deplorable condition and a threat to public safety.
Nevertheless, my second concern relates to the recent statement made by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo where he stated last week that the reason New York State will not repair the road, which they are legally bound to maintain, has to do with an unrelated political dispute between the Governor and the Seneca Nation over gaming revenues.
From the public’s view, this appears to be nothing more than the Governor exacting political revenge on the Seneca Nation at the peril of public safety. The federal funds have been delivered to repair the road, and it is time to fix the road before someone dies.
Given this information, I kindly request the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the Governor and his office for the misuse of federal funds, the abuse of power and any and all other federal crimes, related or unrelated, uncovered in this investigation.
The safety of the traveling public is at stake, Mr. Attorney General – and we both know people are more important than profits.Rep. Tom Reed