Charles E. Schumer

09/24/2019 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 09/24/2019 16:12

SCHUMER STATEMENT ON $6 MILLION IN US DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION FUNDING BEING AWARDED TO THE ST. LAWRENCE SEAWAY TO BUILD A NEW VISITORS’ CENTER

09.24.19

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today released the following statement after the Department of Transportation announced it was awarding $6 million to replace the Dwight D. Eisenhower Lock Visitors' Center on the St. Lawrence Seaway with a brand new facility:

'60,000 tourists come to Massena every year to watch ships come through the spectacular St. Lawrence Seaway, and until now, were only greeted by a worn-down, outdated visitors' center. This is why I relentlessly fought to secure federal funding needed to replace the Eisenhower Lock Visitors' Center, both in person, when I visited the seaway last year, and in direct outreach to the Department of Transportation and St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation over the past year. Now, with the news of a modernized visitors' center, the Thousand Islands and St. Lawrence River Region has 6 million reasons to be happy,' said Senator Schumer.

In July of last year, Schumer visited the St. Lawrence Seaway to advocate for the replacement of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Lock Visitors' Center. Additionally, Schumer wrote to Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao this July, and the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation last July, urging the approval of the replacement of visitors' center.

Copies of Schumer's letters to the Department of Transportation and St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation appear below.

July 16, 2019

Dear Secretary Chao:

I write to you regarding the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation's Asset Renewal Program (ARP) and urge you to approve the needed upgrade of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Lock Visitors' Center, and restore this critical link to the community that tells the story of this unique national asset.

As you know, the Saint Lawrence Seaway is an essential transportation link serving an eight-state, two-province region that accounts for one-quarter of the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP), one-half of North America's manufacturing and services industries, and is home to nearly one-quarter of the continent's population. It is also an opportunity to continue to welcome more than 60,000 visitors from 49 states to the facility in Massena, N.Y.

The visitor's center allows the public to see and to understand the vital importance that this binational waterway holds for the transportation of goods as it connects North America to world markets. However, the visitor's center has not been updated in 60 years since the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation (SLSDC) opened in 1959 and is unable to adequately or safely welcome visitors. Currently, the aged building is located too close to the locks making it impossible for a crane to safely fit between the center and jeopardizing the lock's operational safety. In addition, the current visitor's center does not meet certain ADA requirements.
A new center will accommodate an increasing number of visitors and provide guests with amenities such as running water, restrooms, concessions, and an ADA compliant setting to provide better access to all visitors. By including space for public meetings, cultural exhibits and a concession area for businesses to sell goods, the new center will provide tremendous resources for the local community. Further, the new center will be constructed an appropriate distance from the lock to ensure safe operations.

According to estimates from the SLSDC, a new visitor's center would cost approximately $5 million. Fortunately, the SLSDC has enough funding for the project through previous federal appropriations. What is needed now is your approval to proceed with the project. I urge you to approve the SLSDC's ARP projects, including the visitor's center upgrade.

This year is the 60th anniversary of the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation, marking 60 years of joint co-operation between the United States and Canada to facilitate the transportation of goods and secure the economic well-being of the Great Lakes region. As we commemorate this occasion, I ask you to approve the development of a new Saint Lawrence Seaway Visitor's Center for all to enjoy and celebrate the bi-national cooperation that has guided the SLSDC for 60 years.

If you have any further questions please do not hesitate to contact me or my Transportation Counsel.

Sincerely,

July 3, 2018

Dear Deputy Administrator Middlebrook:

I write to express my support for the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation (SLSDC) Asset Renewal Program (ARP) to provide the critical maintenance of the Seaway's navigation infrastructure and tourism facilities in upstate New York. In addition to being an integral component of the Great Lakes transportation system, the Seaway is a major attraction for tourism in Massena, N.Y. However, the existing Dwight D. Eisenhower Lock Visitors' Center located at the Seaway is nearly 60-years old and in a state of complete disrepair. I urge you to continue to make investments in the critical navigation and economic development projects that are part of the Seaway's ARP, including the Eisenhower Lock Visitors' Center.

As you know, more than 60,000 people from 49 states and 21 countries visited the Eisenhower Lock during the summer months last year and the Visitors' Center provides historical displays on the Seaway and observation decks for tourist to watch vessel transiting the locks. But the nearly 60-year old Visitors' Center is falling apart and unable to adequately or safely welcome the region's visitors. Currently, the aged building is located too close to the locks making it impossible for a crane to safely fit between the center and jeopardizing the lock's operational safety. Further, the center lacks basic 21st century amenities and has limited space to host visitors, employees, and residents of upstate New York.

A new visitors' center is not only necessary in order to ensure important safety upgrades for the lock operations and visitors, but it will also create a tremendous opportunity for tourism in St. Lawrence County. The new center will accommodate an increasing number of visitors and provide guests with amenities such as running water, restrooms and concessions, and ADA compliance granting better access to all visitors. By providing space for public meetings, cultural exhibits and concession area for businesses to sell goods, the new center will provide tremendous resources for the local community. Further, the new center will be constructed an appropriate distance from the lock to ensure operation safety.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter. The Saint Lawrence Seaway is a critical component of the transportation system that directly serves an eight-state, two-province region that accounts for one-quarter of the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP), one-half of North America's manufacturing and services industries, and is home to nearly one-quarter of the continent's population. It is an incredible opportunity to continue to welcome more than 60,000 visitors in Massena, N.Y. If you have any further questions please do not hesitate to contact me or my staff.

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