Are Good Options for I-81 Future Being Left Out of Consideration? Some Local Leaders Think So

Dec 12, 2016

A Depressed Highway, like this portion of I-81 in Salina, could be viable option for the downtown section that has to be replaced, according to at least one supporter. Some elected officials want such ideas back on the table.
Credit Scott Willis/WAER News

The twists and turns of the options to address the aging I-81 viaduct through Syracuse and what residents think or really desire is about to take center stage this Wednesday evening.  A public information forum will be held at Henninger High School with members of the State D-O-T and a local delegation of state elected officials to listen. 

Senator John DeFrancisco says there are members of the public who feel the options haven’t been considered in a comprehensive way.

I-81 Public Forum Henninger High Weds @ 6:30 p.m.

“We understand what the DOT wants to do. But we really want to get points brought out in the public, and more importantly, questions answered as far as what is going to happen, and some think that other alternatives have to be explored.”

Senator John DeFrancisco speaks from the Crowne Plaza Hotel adjacent to 81.
Credit John Smith / WAER News

Assemblymember Bill Magnarelli feels the process for gaining consensus of the options for the I-81 city project appear to be exclusively driven by dollars without taking into consideration what people really want.  Magnarelli maintains he’s heard the majority want the same route through the city, and either a tunnel or a depressed highway.

“I don’t understand this and why we’re re-routing everything.  All of these businesses and things that have grown up, now we’re going to throw that all out the window.  That’s, in my eyes, the same mistake we made 60 years ago.” 

Overhead view of I-81 from the Crowne Plaza's 20th floor.

Magnarelli thinks redirecting traffic would be devastating to businesses and a major inconvenience.  Looking at the 81 overpass this morning from the 20th floor of the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Magnarelli described part of the depressed highway that already exists north of the city.

“You can see it if you go up to Butternut Street, Spencer Street, Court Street, all those bridges.  You could do the same thing here.  You could have a four-lane bridge going over the top of the depressed highway right outside this window.” 

The Department of Transportation has reduced the number of options its considering to two: A community Grid option that eliminates the elevated portion of 81 through downtown; and new viaduct with design improvements that would keep the present route.  

The I-81 public information forum will be held at Henninger High School Wednesday night at 6:30 at 600 Robinson Street.