It is well established in federal law that Indian Tribes exercise civil regulatory jurisdiction over roadways that traverse sovereign reservation lands.
Governor Andrew Cuomo‘s administration has long ignored necessary Thruway repairs along the Interstate 90 as it traverses the Seneca Nation’s Cattaraugus Territory. The deteriorating conditions along the roadway pose a danger to public safety. A similar dispute brewed for years along Interstate 86, where it traverses the Nation’s Allegany Territory. Both roadways are heavily traveled trucking routes between the midwest and east coast.
Now the Seneca Tribal Council is being encouraged to exercise eminent domain in revoking the easement that allows both roadways to operate on sovereign land. Doing so would allow the Nation to construct toll booths and large commercial service plazas — equipped with gasoline retailers, restauranteurs, two-star hotels, and truck-related services — along the lucrative highways.
By assuming responsibility for the roadway, the Seneca Nation would assume responsibility for maintaining the roadway. There’s little doubt that a toll would generate many times more money than the road’s maintenance cost over time — with or without eventual access to federal highway monies generated by the gasoline tax (which would require considerable intergovernmental affairs work to secure from the Federal Highway Administration).
With the Senecas maintaining the road with their own Highway Department, they will be able to address repair needs immediately, without having to engage with the State’s slow-moving bureaucracy.
Truck drivers traveling along both roadways are a key target market for Seneca One Stop‘s growth strategy. By providing all the accommodations, food, and entertainment amenities that a truck driver might need, with gaming options nearby, the Nation could monetize the roadway in a way that is doesn’t today.
The strategy could also generate hundreds of jobs on both reservations, and the influx of cash from the toll receipts could improve the Nation’s liquidity position and jumpstart the Seneca economy.