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Onondaga County Town and Village Leaders Say They've Been Left Out of I-81 Grid Decision


Onondaga County’s Town Supervisors and Village Mayors say the state DOT has not considered their input regarding the department’s recommendation of a community grid to replace the I-81 viaduct through Syracuse. 

About 18 leaders gathered at Cicero Town Hall Tuesday, including Fayetteville Mayor Mark Olson.  He’s also president of the Mayor’s Association of Onondaga County.

"Of the 15 villages I represent, 8 of them are affected by this project.  Can any of you tell me how many mayors have been contacted by the DOT?  The answer is zero.  The DOT has not answered or asked any questions from any mayor or town supervisor that I know of.  That is wrong."

Olson says they want to be part of a compromise, not ignored, since they represent two-thirds of the county’s population.  One of the few suburban leaders who has been in contact with the DOT is DeWitt Deputy Town Supervisor Kerry Mannion.  He says they’ve been less than transparent at recent meetings, and is asking for open forums where the public and town leaders can get some answers.  Mannion disputes the DOT’s long-held assertion that only 11 percent of I-81 traffic will be re-routed to I-481.

Credit wikimedia maps / (C) OpenStreetMap contributors
(C) OpenStreetMap contributors
The DOT's plan would make the current I-81 a business loop into the city of Syracuse, and re-route through traffic on I-481. Concerns from town and village leaders range from increased traffic along I-481, to a loss of traffic in the areas it bypasses, especially Salina near the Thruway.

"Many of the general public believe it to be true...geez, it'll only be 11 percent, that's not that big a deal.  We've been telling them for 7 to 8 years that it'll be a lot more than 11-12 percent, because their own numbers show there will be about a 50 percent increase in traffic on I-481 heading north."

Cicero town supervisor Mark Venesky says it appears the state has not done its homework on many other fronts, including the tax implications for the town of Salina, which has 15 hotels, dozens of restaurants, and nine gas stations to serve traffic from I-81 and the Thruway.  He says DOT officials also have no answer for the tax implications for the city of Syracuse or the county if a community grid impacts Destiny USA’s workers and visitors.

"I don't care what we're being told, that tells me that this project has not been vetted.  They have real no idea where the numbers are coming from.  I question the methodology.  This is not a done deal."

Venesky says the DOT’s draft environmental impact statement released this spring still hasn’t been approved by the federal government.  The DOT will hold its final neighborhood meeting next Thursday, July 25th at Cicero North Syracuse high school.  The leaders are asking for additional meetings. 

Credit Scott Willis / WAER-FM 88.3
WAER-FM 88.3
Clay Town Supervisor Damian Ulatowski is joined by more than a dozen other suburban leaders in Cicero Town Hall. To his immediate right are LaFayette Town Supervisor Danny Fitzpatrick and Cicero Town Supervisor Mark Venesky. At his immediate left is Assemblymember Gary Finch.