For a village with fewer than 800 people, Fonda can be very difficult to get through. From Route 5 repaving projects to reconstruction work on the Route 30A bridge, along with closings of railroad crossings and tractor trailers barreling through all day long, it can take a long time for a motorist to get through this community that covers less than one square mile. Most of the congestion is due to traffic coming from Thruway Exit 28 in Fultonville, although the bulk of the traffic build-up there is along Riverside Drive.
That's why a decision by the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors' General Services Committee -- and now other individual governing boards -- to pass on kicking in to pay for a small portion of a $400,000 federal traffic study grant is baffling. The study -- which Fulton County officials favor -- would explore the possibility of putting in a bypass that essentially keeps the big rigs from having to navigate through Fonda as they head toward the Johnstown Industrial Park, located just across the county line.
We're clear on the general reason for Montgomery County's opposition, as many officials think the bypass would do more to help Fulton County's economy. That reason is short-sighted -- and wrong. Yes, allowing trucks greater access to the Johnstown Industrial Park from the Thruway opens the door for more expansion and growth, but the benefits wouldn't be limited to Fulton County.
If the industrial park were to expand, it would mean more businesses and more jobs, something both counties need badly as Fulton County's jobless rate is the third-highest in New York state and Montgomery County's unemployment ranks seventh. If the bypass were to indeed mean an expanded industrial park, does anyone actually think that all the available jobs would be filled only by Fulton County residents? We're pretty confident there would be folks from Montgomery County who would wind up working there, as many already do.
Also, has anyone in Montgomery County considered that some of the land being eyed for the park's expansion actually sits in the Fonda-Fultonville Central School District, which is predominantly a Montgomery County system? The school district is hurting for cash -- so badly that it's now in the midst of potential massive mid-year, across-the-board cuts -- and the potential infusion of property tax revenue could help Fonda-Fultonville keep programs and staff in place.
The bypass could have other benefits for Montgomery County, especially in Fonda. Getting the big rigs off the village's main road would open the door to a safer passage through the village, and creates the possibility for Fonda to grow its downtown and avoid negative impacts on its infrastructure caused by the heavy truck traffic. Any fears about lost business if traffic is routed around the village are unfounded, as most tractor trailers gas up at the truck stops on Riverside Drive and don't actually stop in Fonda. The village's business community could actually grow if people had a reason to stop there instead of just passing through.
We urge Montgomery County officials to step back, look at the big picture, and reconsider their opposition to the bypass study. Most experts -- the latest being one who led a regional economic development symposium Thursday at Fulton-Montgomery Community College -- agree that thinking regionally is the best way to improve the local economy. But leaders have to be willing to look past the noses on their faces for that to happen, or else Montgomery County will remain stuck in neutral, as it has been for years.