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Neighborhood Meetings Start: Future of I-81 Still Up in the Air

Comments Box on table at Henninger High School.
Elana Sukert, WAER

The first of six Neighborhood Meetings to discuss the I-81 Viaduct Project was held Tuesday night at Henninger High School. The Open House format allowed the public to interact one-on-one with participants involved in the project from the State DOT to architects. Comment boxes were readily available on site as the public were hoping for their opinions to be heard.

Community member Peggy Conan turned out last night to get more insight on the two options left for consideration.

“It’s partly to find out how it is my input can be heard and if it’s being solicited, which I’m not positive about.”

The first option is the viaduct proposal that will rebuild and expand the existing 81 interchange near the Harrison and Adams Exit and will include a new Martin Luther King Jr. East Exit. The second option, known as the community grid proposal, will demolish the highway and make changes to the current street network. The grid proposal will also build up I-481 to be used as an alternative route for traffic.

Officials at the open house were tight-lipped about which options they were leaning towards and declined some interview requests. The community members present were open about discussing their views and the impact of the proposals. SU Architecture student Killan Miles was interested in the socio-economic and structural repercussions of both proposals.

Traffic Studies: Pie Charts quantifying differences in travel time and route changes
Credit Elana Sukert, WAER
Charts and maps were on display at the first Neighborhood Meeting to help attendees visualize the different impacts each option would have on traffic.

“Kind of waiting to see if they come up with something and my response will obviously be some kind of different type of building, an actual inevitable building," Miles said.  "For my project I doubt I’ll be coming up with a proposal for the actual highway itself, but how that would affect the urban fabric around the buildings. There’s five buildings that are definitely being torn down and then I think something like 25 of them could possibly be torn down if they build a new highway and only five if they do the ground-level boulevard.” 

The multiple interactive displays and maps showed the direct impact of each proposal on traffic patterns and travel time to route changes and its projected community influence.  Regional DOT Director Gene Cilento expects more information forthcoming in the months ahead.

People stand in Henninger High School looking at Display Boards.
Credit Elana Sukert, WAER
Neighborhood Meetings will continue through next week on Wednesday, Oct. 26, then again on Tuesday, Nov. 1, and Thursday, Nov. 3, from 6:00 - 8:00pm.

“Draft environmental impact statement that will be made available in the beginning of 2017 and a decision preferred alternative will be selected and once we get concurrence from the Federal Highway Administration then will go on to preferred alternative and look at construction.” 

The next neighborhood meeting will be held Wednesday night from 6:00 – 8:00 pm at Skaneateles High School.

Credit NYS DOT