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      I-690 hole prompts I-81 concerns in Syracuse

      A hole on a busy Syracuse bridge is prompting concerns in other areas now.

      On Tuesday, a hole opened up on I-690 West near the I-81 North Interchange. Drivers like Chad Hill are on alert.

      "It's just concerning that holes are appearing in the roads so you just wonder if it is going to appear while you're driving through," Hill said. "It's kind of scary."

      As the bridge, which was built in 1966, nears the end of it's life expectancy, it's not alone. I-81 in Syracuse, one of the most travelled area roads, is about the same age. Syracuse Common Council President Van Robinson has long been in favor of tearing down the mile stretch of I-81 that runs through downtown.

      "We're looking forward to a long period of time where you're going to be hearing more and more about sections of the highway system crumbling," Robinson says.

      Robinson says the hole on the I-690 bridge strengthens the argument that I-81 should come down and traffic to get out of Syracuse should be re-routed through 481. He calls I-81 the "Berlin Wall of Syracuse". He says it separates the east and west sides of the city. He would like to see a boulevard there with professional and residential buildings. Click here for information on the I-81 Challenge.

      "I'm sure we'd get some economic benefits we're just not going to get if that highway remains standing," Van Robinson says.

      But some drivers like Justin Gillette don't want to see I-81 torn down but rather worked on.

      "It's an easy way to get out of the city," Gillette says.

      In May, the NY State Department of Transportation had public meetings asking people what to do about that stretch of I-81 down the road. The possibilities included tearing it down or replacing it. The DOT will ultimately make that decision with input from other agencies. A spokesperson says whatever is decided, under the current work schedule, work won't start until the end of the decide.

      Meantime, here's some new information about the 690 bridge. In the 44 years since it was built, it's had two major repairs. That's according to the state DOT.

      I n 1992, as part of a multi-bridge project, an inch of concrete pavement was put on the bridge and the joints were replaced. I n 2004, patch work was done, including where the current hole is. Also done, replacing steel beams that rest on abutments. A DOT spokesperson says the bridges are meant to last 50 years with minimal work so this is normal.

      Right now work is being done on the hole and the work will continue through at least July 5th.

      "The bridge is safe and if it's not safe it wouldn't be open," says Gene Cilento, public information officer for the state DOT.