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      CenterState CEO outlines principles and goals for the future of I-81

      CenterState CEO President Robert M. Simpson said Tuesday that while it is too soon to know what a replacement or solution for Interstate 81 through Syracuse will be, the community must work together and with a clear set of principles.

      After recent public meetings and comments, the two options which seem more likely than others for the future of I-81 include rebuilding it as an elevated highway or tearing it down to turn it into a ground level boulevard. A third option is to reroute I-81 traffic to 481, which many residents in the eastern communities have concerns about. The highway will reach the end of its useful life in 2017.

      In a statement, Simpson said the principles detailed by CenterState CEO include: a more unified city, linking economic engines throughout Syracuse and the suburbs; a minimized footprint, reducing the need for eminent domain and demolition of businesses and neighborhoods; convenient access to and throughout the city for residents, commuters, and visitors; safety; walkability; mass transit considerations; phased construction to minimize disruption; and high standards for design, built for the 22nd century.

      "We have an opportunity to reach for something better," said Simpson. "Today??s I-81 does not serve this region as well as it should ?? not drivers, not business, not residents. Together, as a community, we can create a transformative solution that meets our transportation needs and does much more. Settling for anything less delivers an investment that falls short of its full potential and an opportunity lost. A successful replacement for I-81 must be guided by strategic goals shared by our entire community."

      Simpson says that similar projects in other cities have improved "access for businesses, commuters and tourists and ensured walkability for residents. There is absolutely no reason that we cannot achieve similar outcomes here."

      Communities to the south and west of Syracuse , such as Skaneateles and Auburn, are concerned that the boulevard option will cause large trucks to rumble through their streets to avoid route 81.

      Simpson emphasized the importance of the I-81 project to future generations and included a list of critical questions necessary for the public to reach an informed decision in a letter to New York State Department of Transportation Commissioner Joan MacDonald.

      Last month, the Federal Highway Administration said it would work to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement looking at how to improve the deteriorating highway and bring the overpasses up to standards without creating any safety issues or additional environmental hazards.

      CenterState CEO is encouraging the public to add to its list of questions using the hashtag #81Questions on Facebook and Twitter.