Rep. Jack Quinn's long-shot effort at immediately turning U.S. Route 219 into an interstate appears to have failed -- at least for now.
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved an amendment Wednesday to a key highway bill that, among other things, designates the Southern Tier's Route 17 as an interstate.
But Rep. Bud Shuster, R-Pa., committee chairman, rebuffed Quinn's plea to get the same status for Route 219, which local leaders want upgraded so that Buffalo and Toronto will finally have a direct four-lane highway linking them to points in the Southeast.
Shuster included the Route 17 provision, backed strongly by Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, D-N.Y., in an amendment making technical changes in the highway bill, which will set federal transportation policy for the next several years.
Quinn introduced his Route 219 amendment as a stand-alone measure but quickly withdrew it, knowing that debate on the entire highway bill was about to be postponed for six months.
Quinn said he was "trying to hit a home run" by getting interstate designation for Route 219. "I've said all along that Route 219 had to be done in phases," he said.
Natalie Harder, a business development officer with the Greater Buffalo Partnership, agreed. "Our slogan has been: 219 in the year 2019," she said.
Quinn's proposal would have designated Route 219 as an interstate all the way to Interstate 80, a key east-west route that bisects Pennsylvania.
In private discussions, Shuster staffers told Quinn staffers that the 219 interstate proposal would tie the federal government into a huge financial commitment, since it would force construction of a four-lane highway to replace the winding two-lane section of Route 219 in Pennsylvania.
Quinn stressed that there are still plenty of opportunities for obtaining additional funding to improve Route 219, since Shuster delayed further action on his $200 billion highway bill until 1998.