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State DOT Brings I-81 Meeting to Northern Suburbs, But Will Their Voices Be Heard?

Scott Willis
WAER-FM 88.3

The towns likely to be most affected by the state’s community grid recommendation for I-81 will have a chance to express their concerns to the DOT on their home turf Wednesday…or will they?

"I'm a little disappointed that thye're not giving us the opportunity to have a public forum and ask questions regarding our concerns in an open meeting,"  said Salina Town Supervisor Colleen Gunnip.

"It's basically a presentation, almost like walking through a museum exhibit, looking at various renderings," said Clay Town Supervisor Damian Ulatowski.

The DOT is hosting a community meeting in Liverpool after officials said they were not consulted about the economic impact to the northern suburbs.  Gunnip says the state never took into account the tax revenue generated by the 15 hotels, dozens of restaurants, and several gas stations that grew up around the highway, and might see far less traffic with a grid to the south.

"That information needs to be identified and make a determination as to do the benefits far outweigh the impacts.  If that's the reason, and it's better for the entire community, I think at least the residents would understand that.  But we haven't seen that," Gunnip said.

Both Gunnip and Ulatowski don’t expect the DOT to change their recommendation based on the feedback from Wednesday's meeting.  But Ulatowski hopes the state isn’t simply going with the cheapest option…

"Let's make it something that's far better and reaches way into the future that meets the needs of the city, but also respects the municipalities."

The I-81 Community meeting will be held Wednesday evening at Chestnut Hill Middle School in Liverpool from 6 to 8 pm.