Senator DeFrancisco suggests depressed highway as an option to replace Route 81

State Senator John DeFrancisco is suggesting a "depressed highway with bridges across it" as a fourth alternative to the reconstruction of Interstate 81 through Syracuse, which he says "have the support of a lot of different people."

As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, DeFrancisco took advantage of an opportunity to discuss the Route 81 project with New York Transportation Commissioner Joan McDonald, who was testifying about the department's budget request. McDonald told the Senator that she is currently reviewing the public comments and expects a joint state and federal decision on the future of Route 81 in 18 months. McDonald said the comments centered on three alternatives, a boulevard, tunnel or an elevated highway.

DeFrancisco said the decision makers should consider the fourth alternative, a depressed highway through Syracuse with bridges over the roadway. DeFrancisco said, "we have that system on the northern end of the city already and the world has not come to an end and the neighborhood has not crumbled. So I think that should be seriously considered as a less costly way to do it."

Commissioner McDonald called the idea a "hybrid" of the boulevard option, to which DeFrancisco replied, "my guess is if it can be designed you can have the support of a lot of different people." The Senator noted that Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner recently wrote to McDonald expressing her concern about a lack of information surrounding the forthcoming project.

Route 81 reaches the end of its useful life in 2017. By then the Federal Highway Administration is expected to decide on an alternative design to the highway.

Watch video of the testimony before the Senate Finance Committee.