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Camillus Residents Share Concerns Over I-81 Renovation At Final Open House Meeting

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Scott Willis
/
WAER
Mark Frechette, a project manager with the state transportation department, points out an item on a map to meeting attendee, Sept. 23, 2021.

Onondaga County residents attended the final open house meeting on Thursday for the Interstate 81 replacement project. Over the past month, the New York State Department of Transportation has held nine meetings where community members have been able to voice their concerns. Among those voicing their concerns was Pat Baker, a retired schoolteacher from Camillus.

“Many of the town supervisors have gone to different meetings objecting to the community grid, including Camillus," Baker said. "As a resident of Camillus, I don’t ever recall having been polled or asked my opinion. So, that’s what I’m trying to understand, what the important objection is.”

Camillus resident Christopher Hess, who is running for town council, said the community grid plan would help revitalize a once bustling Syracuse neighborhood destroyed by the construction of I-81. The department of transportation project director, Mark Frechette, said that conversations happening at the open houses are focused on resident concerns.

“Your travel time into the city: 'How do I get there? How do I get to the hospital? I really love going to this restaurant, how do I get there?' — We don’t have any work in Camillus as part of the project, but a lot of people utilize Interstate 690 to get into the city from here," Frechette said.

So far, the open houses held this year have received about 3,000 comments, up from 1,200 when similar meetings were held in 2019. Some of those comments are likely to reflect Steven Burdick’s perspective. He’s attended several of the open houses, and favors a new, wider viaduct.

“These guys wanna butcher the roads up and make you go around an extra 10 miles or an extra 10 traffic lights — that’s a bunch of BS," Burdick said. "You’ve got the convenience of that beautiful road, keep it like that.”

The new, community grid plan will include street-level intersections like that on Almond Street. Traffic will re-route through I-481 and travel an extra three miles, but only add one to two minutes onto driving.

The extended public comment period continues through Oct. 14.

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at srwillis@syr.edu.