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New I-81 Replacement Plan Emerges on Eve of Public Meeting

John Smith/WAER News

  Just days before a public meeting about the replacement of I-81 through Syracuse, a closed door meeting was held today with local and State DOT Officials.  Senator John DeFrancisco brought in engineering plans provided by his constituents.  It calls for building a 1.2 mile tunnel with an overlapping boulevard. 

“So the north-south traffic would be diverted and stay on 81. Someone wants to go north-south they wouldn’t be interrupted at all.  And then above that tunnel would be a boulevard instead of six lanes, four lanes because you wouldn’t need the amount of surface space if your diverting so many cars.”

DeFrancisco was not a fan of a previous boulevard plan he thought would lead to traffic jams.  He says people have varying points of view and many want the boulevard.  On the other hand, the business community wants to keep 81 a main thoroughfare.  

The Senator feels this latest proposal offers the best of both worlds.

Credit John Smith/WAER News
Senator John DeFancisco can see the I-81 viaduct from his State Senate Syracuse office. He favors eliminating the elevated portion in favor of a hybrid boulevard-tunnel plan.

  “The route would basically be the same, no bridge, no viaduct, with tunnel under the boulevard.  There would be no obstructions by viaducts.  There would be clear highway on the city grounds, but the tunnel would divert the north-south (through) traffic.”

DeFrancisco says the tunnel would begin just South of Burt Street and extend to the West side of Salina Street, near Butternut Street.  Cost estimates still need to be worked out.  The proposal will likely be discussed at the open public meeting Thursday at the Oncenter.  The session runs from 3:00 to 8:000 p.m. with presentations at 4:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.