Legislation ensuring lasting protections and financial backing to the Erie Canal National Heritage Corridor for the next 15 years has been introduced in Washington.
The Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor Commission Reauthorization Act of 2021 is being led by Rep. Paul Tonko (NY-20) and cosponsored by Congressman Brian Higgins.
“The Erie Canal played a major role in the rise of Buffalo and Western New York historically and continues to be economic and tourism drivers for the region,” said Congressman Higgins. “This legislation continues to preserve and promote the Erie Canal as a place of national and regional significance.”
Designated as a National Heritage Corridor by Congress in 2000, a federally appointed Canalway Commission, the National Parks Service, and the Department of the Interior work to promote the corridor as a tourist destination and preserve the historic and natural features of the Canalway, along with its surrounding communities. It is a major attraction for locals and visitors. A 2017 economic impact report completed by the Corridor estimated nearly $1B in revenue from tourist and recreation activities along the waterway. The new legislation extends the reauthorization for the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor Commission and increases the federal funding cap by $2M.
Opening in 1825, the Erie Canal allowed boats to travel from Buffalo and Albany in just five days and decreased freight rates by 90%. The Canalway generated wealth for itself and the nation, making New York City the nation’s busiest port and most populous city, and bringing more settlers west than any other trans-Appalachian canal. It connected the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean, facilitating the movement of people and goods in a faster, more efficient way, compared to the restrictions and treacherous conditions of overland routes. Today, the canal remains a key feature of our economy, transporting nearly 100,000 tons of cargo each year and promoting tourism and recreation throughout upstate New York.
The Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor stretches 524 miles across upstate New York from Buffalo to Albany and north along the Champlain Canal to Whitehall. It includes the Erie, Cayuga-Seneca, Oswego, and Champlain Canals, encompassing 4,834 square miles, 32 counties, and is home to 3.2 million New Yorkers. The Corridor preserves an important part of our nation’s heritage and works to foster vibrant communities that reside along the waterway. To learn more about Erie Canal history, events, and attractions, visit www.eriecanalway.org.