As public I-81 Challenge meeting looms, we take a look underneath the bridge

Cars parked underneath I-81 Bridge

The business impact, suburb impact and the impact on taxpayers have all been discussed in recent weeks regarding the I-81 Challenge. Now, we look at the underneath of the I-81 bridge, both the structure itself and the people that park there on a daily basis.

Dozens of cars park below the bridge at street level every day. Several who park there say they been there for years, and do not want the bridge to come down if that decision is made. They say the parking is cheaper (under $40) than other lots in the city of Syracuse, and the I-81 lots are also closer to their places of work. They also are worried about parking in a new, unfamiliar space.

"I think they should take the bridge down," Kim Johnson, who has parked underneath I-81 near Fayette Street for years, says. "I think it'll cause too much congestion, too many people park downtown and there's limited space as it is, it'll just..I think it'll be crazy."

While several agreed with Johnson, some did not, saying they would be willing to give up their parking space to give Syracuse a new look.

"I think they should take the bridge down," Michael DiRenzo, who also parks under the I-81 bridge, says. "I think it separates the city...I think it's just old, and [taking it down] would look a whole lot better."

Regardless of the resolution, Gene Cilento from the New York State Department of Transportation says I-81 will make for a lot of work in the near future. He pointed out some spots that need immediate repair or replacement.

"At a minimum you need to replace the concrete deck...the part that the vehicles ride on..we'll replace, or rehabilitate a lot of the steel, especially near the joints where the water leaks through, or replace those joints themselves, and a lot of the drainage structures have holes in them and have to be replaced as well," Cilento says.

The State Department of Transportation and Syracuse Metropolitan Transportation Council will host a public meeting on the future of I-81 at the Oncenter on Tuesday from 3:30 - 8:00 p.m. There the public can learn more about the proposals for the interstate, as well as provide their input into the decision-making process.