Businesses on I-81 just north of Syracuse and the county legislators that represent them are continuing to insist that a high-speed highway be maintained through the city. They’re urging residents and others to speak out against the state’s recommendation last week of a community grid to replace the aging viaduct that cuts through downtown.
Legislator Judy Tassone stood in front of dozens of workers from hotels located on 7th North St. to make her point:
“If the hotels, restaurants, gas stations, and the mall lose business from the New York State DOT recommendation of community grid, hundreds of jobs will be lost.”
But Tassone couldn’t provide specific research to back up that claim. Some hotel owners have, however, looked into the impact on tax revenue generated for the town, county, and city of Syracuse if I-81 through traffic is re-routed to I-481. Carmen Emmi is with Homewood Suites.
“These hotels represent 18% of the total supply in Syracuse. And we produce 23% of room occupancy tax revenue, so we are relevant to the whole area.”
Salina officials are especially concerned about the potential hit to their tax base. Supervisor Colleen Gunnip says they’re projecting $300,000 in lost revenue if the grid plan goes through, and a 50% drop in assessed value of properties on 7th North, Brewerton, and Old Liverpool Roads. She adds that the I-81 recommendation has been assessed as a risk to their bond rating, which could make it more expensive to borrow money for intrastructure projects. Gunnip says mitigiation would be helpful, but it might not be enough.
"How do you mitigate a truck stop down the road? If truck traffic is not going to come this way, they're going to take 481 and continue north or south."
She and others feel the potential "devastation" of the town was completely ignored by the state. They say "Salina" wasn't mentioned even once in the 15,000 page report. The state is at least a year away from making a final decision.