State DOT releases six I-81 options that will be further studied

After months of research debate and public comment, the State Department of Transportation has come up with six options for the future of the elevated section of Interstate 81 it deems worthy of further study. Three of those options involve replacing the current viaduct with a new one and three involve replacing it with a street level boulevard.

None of the options include a tunnel, and that's an option State Senator John DeFrancisco says is worth looking at.

"You've got to have some north-south through traffic on Interstate 81, otherwise you are shutting off all the businesses on 7th North Street all the way up," he says.

Senator DeFrancisco says a tunnel with a boulevard running above it could be the best of both worlds, saying it would knock down the viaduct, but still offer motorists a fast express route through the city.

"I think it's a reasonable compromise. Those people who want a north-south thoroughfare and those people who want the boulevard and the viaduct gone should be pleased with this," he says.

DeFrancisco says the tunnel would go underground near Burt Street and emerge at Butternut Street.

The D.O.T has said building a tunnel would be extremely difficult, and could cost at least a billion dollars more than the other alternatives, but Senator DeFrancisco says the cost of not building a tunnel could be greater in the long run.

"The congestion and inconvenience to people by not doing it this way for the next 60-70 years is going to be, I think, unacceptable," he says.

The public will get a chance to hear more details about the state D.O.T's recommendations at a public forum at the Oncenter Thursday from 3 until 8pm.