One of the proposals for rplacing the aging elevated sections of Interstate 81 in downtown Syracuse, would move the highway itself, giving the 481 bypass through DeWitt the 81 designation.
That proposal has businesses along the highway from Brighton Avenue up to Cicero concerned about effects, and businesses in the northern suburbs are especially worried about the economic impact.
Carmen Emmi, Jr, partner in the Homewood Suites off 7th North Street in Salina, says hotels like his have grown up around 81, in part because they can tell customers that Syracuse is a '20 minute city'--you can get anywhere in a short time because of the interstate. He's concerned that changing 81 would change that, so much so that a new hotel that his group was considerin at the Buckley-7th North interchange is on hold, until the 81 decisions are made.
Emmi says changing 81 would be bad for businesses in his area, but could have an economic impact on Onondaga County as a whole: the 12 hotels in the northern suburbs account for a quarter of the county's room occupancy tax recepts, money that's used in many programs, county-wide.
Salina Town Supervisor Mark Nicotra has helped organize an informational meeting on highway change effects, saying that many people not directly impacted by the construction will still feel effects. A 1960s era photo in his office shows the 81-Thruway interchange as 81 was being completed, as mostly farmland. The development is a result of the traffic the crossroads have brought.
And its not only suburban businesses that could see an effect: Destiny USA saw over 23 million visitors last year, most, including many from Canada, arriving on Route 81.
The 81 Challenge informational meeting for the northern suburbs is Wednesday evening at 6pm, at the Holiday Inn Electronics Parkway. Another meeting is set for downtown Syracuse later in May, when options for changes to the aging 81 elevated sections will be narrowed down.