NYSDOT presents 16 plans for I-81

It's the billion dollar question that will soon need an answer:

What to do with Syracuse's I-81 viaduct?

The New York State Department of Transportation presented 16 plans for the future of 81 tonight. Those plans include five different variations of viaducts, three street-level or boulavard plans, four tunnels, two depressed highways and a pair of options that would completely re-route 81 around the city.

While the final decision will be made by the Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration, officials have encouraged public input.

Opinions vary as greatly as the options for 81, but many hope that the chosen plan will do a better job of preserving and reuniting Syracuse communities.

"I think a lot of us feel like we made a mistake when we built 81 because it eliminated a lot of a neighborhood and changed our culture," said longtime Syracuse resident Joanne Lenweaver. "We don't want to do that again."

Among the 16 options on the table is a plan to simply make the ncessary repairs to 81's current structure in order to increase its lifespan another 30-40 years. But most people say they want a longer term solution.

"Why not go for longevity?" asked South Side neighbor Mike Jones. "If you're going to have to keep repairing it, why not get it done in one shot? It's time for a change."

The final project is currently estimated to cost anywhere from $800 million to $3.3 billion dollars, but those estimates are expected to increase.

"We always have to consider finances but I hope in this case we don't sacrifice quality of life just for the money," said East Side resident Donna Stoner.

Officials say they hope to have a finalized plan by the summer of 2015.