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Property acquisition will soon begin for an extension of Route 219 about 3 1/2 miles south of where it now ends at Route 39 in Springville.

"We can let bids about one year from now and get a shovel in the ground in the spring of 2006," the state Department of Transportation project manger, Peter Nixon, told the Cattaraugus County Legislature's Route 219 Committee on Tuesday.

Nixon described the plan as one way to begin work on the freeway before negotiations can begin with the Seneca Nation of Indians to settle access issues through the southern portion of Cattaraugus County near the I-86 interchange in Salamanca.

The Federal Highway Works Administration stipulated in its 2003 freeway authorization that the full 27 miles cannot be built until the Senecas give their unconditional support.

Nixon said officials are serious about building the full highway but only have authorization to start with a small section creating very limited environmental impact.

The cost will use up $63 million on hand.

DOT planners' first design would take the freeway to Ashford Hollow near Ellicottville, but that was rejected because "the impacts were too severe," said Nixon.

He added that the public comment period would have taken another five years so the DOT instead chose only the first 3 1/2 -mile section. The public will have a chance to review this assessment before the Federal Highway Administration authorizes property acquisition and construction.

In the meantime, a second 3 1/2 -mile section extending the freeway to the Ashford town line will be designed over the next couple of years as officials work to obtain funding.

Nixon also gave an update earlier Tuesday to the Seneca Nation's transportation committee.

He told the Route 219 Committee members that there is probably nothing the County Legislature can do to speed up the right of way issues resolution with the Senecas.

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