Neighbors, legislators talk about future of Interstate 81

Interstate 81 was a topic of discussion on Monday night during meetings in both Syracuse and DeWitt.

The Syracuse's Common Council held a special public meeting to hear concerns from neighbors about the road's future.

"What happens to the community?" said Syracuse resident Peter Sarver. "What happens to the housing that's adjacent to the area, as well as businesses and so forth?"

Some came to the meeting with ideas for original proposals, including one landscape architect who created renderings of his own original plan.

Several neighbors favor an elevated highway over an urban boulevard. "I think a boulevard is going to add to our traffic congestion, rather than reduce it," said lifelong Syracuse resident Dick Woodworth.

Legislators hope to find a long-term solution to the Interstate 81 problem. "Fifty years from now, the residents will turn around and say, 'Well, they did a good job,' said Syracuse Common Council President Van Robinson. "You know, that's what we're looking for - innovation. We're looking for vision."

There are also rising concerns in DeWitt about rerouting I-81 traffic onto 481. "We continually hear from the meetings that we've been to that we can take down 81 because we have Route 481," said DeWitt Supervisor Ed Michalenko. "And for us that live along Route 481, that's not an option."

A resolution unanimously passed in DeWitt at Monday's meeting. The resolution calls for I-81 to remain as it is, without rerouting I-81 traffic onto I-481.

"The DeWitt Town Board memorializes its determination that the existing Interstate 81 alignment through Syracuse and Central New York must remain and its function and designation as an interstate highway must not be removed or impaired," the resolution reads.

The New York State Department of Transportation will ultimately make the final decision about the future of I-81.

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