As the availability and use of automobiles increased, residents
of the upper Delaware region begin to lobby for a new highway that would
link the communities along the river. A road along the New York side of
the Delaware River had been proposed as early as 1915, but the plan lay
dormant. In 1920, the proposed road was removed from the state’s official
plan but protests resulted in its reinstatement in 1925. One area resident
was also a secretary to New York Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt, and partly
owing to his influence, a section of the highway was built between Mongaup
River and Pond Eddy and another from Hancock to the Fremont town line.
No further improvements occurred in the road situation until Governor
Roosevelt visited a Boy Scout Camp at Ten Mile River. In 1929, after Roosevelt’s
visit, the pace of the project increased.
The March 28, 1930 edition of the Narrowsburg paper headlined
"Talk About 30-Ft. Parkway Up The Delaware River"
and "Gov. Roosevelt Tells of Giant Project of New York, Jersey & Penna.".
The article noted that the proposed highway would extend to Dunkirk, New
York, or Erie, Pennsylvania and connect New York City with the western
part of the state much like the New York and Erie Railroad had done decades
earlier. The article also noted that the plan was to keep the new road
"in the hills and mountains as much as possible because of the scenic
beauty". Route 97, initially known as 3-A; was conceived of not only as
a transportation corridor across the southern tier counties, but as a
There was also considerable push to begin construction
of this road as a means to bolster the local economy and employment. There
was public pressure on both Governor Franklin Roosevelt and President
Herbert Hoover to get projects such as this underway. With the nation’s
economy in turmoil and the depression looming, local officials lobbied
Albany to complete more of Route 97. The mayor of Port Jervis was a leader
in the push to have the projects begun sooner than initially planned.
Initially, the project was to begin in 1931, but was pushed back to 1932.
Port Jervis mayor, Thomas Conmy, lobbied hard for an earlier construction date.
There were several engineering and construction obstacles
that had to be overcome in the construction of this highway. Deep ravines
at Narrowsburg, Cochecton, Callicoon and Hankins had to be crossed. There
apparently was public concern that the automobiles were not powerful enough
to climb the grades these ravines would necessitate. Perhaps the biggest
question was how to tackle the Hawk’s Nest.
One proposal called for the road to begin at Bolton Basin
in Sparrowbush and follow the old towpath of
the Delaware & Hudson Canal along the bottom of Hawk’s Nest. This
was based on a 1907 survey. However, the Erie Railroad owned the right-of-way
along the river from Port Jervis to Tusten including the bed of the former
Delaware & Hudson Canal. The railroad objected to their land being
taken but the state decided to pursue obtaining a right-of-way in court
and meetings between the state and the Erie Railroad were held in late
1931. An alternate proposal called for a route in back of Hawk’s Nest
but that route would miss the scenic qualities. Finally, in October 1931,
it was announced that an old single road that went about halfway up Hawk’s
Nest would be the route the new road would follow. A new bridge across
the Mongaup River also was proposed. The Erie
Railroad also objected to this plan fearing that debris from the construction
of Route 97 across Hawk’s Nest would dump “thousands of square yards”
of debris on their land below the construction area. The state responded
by moving the planned roadway further into the mountain which would create
less debris. Construction of this section was to commence in spring 1932.