Syracuse area business owners voice concerns as public I-81 meeting approaches

Several acres of land off Buckley Road in Liverpool has always been home to the family business for Tony Mangano. Fifty years ago his grandfather had a farm on the property but that changed when Interstate 81 was built.

Mangano and his family now own four hotels near the Seventh North Street exit. He hopes that as the D.O.T. considers the future of Route 81 - they don't lose sight of all the out of town traffic and customers that rely on the highway to get into Syracuse.

"They need somewhere easy to get back and forth and 81 is that easy road for them," said Mangano.

On Friday, State Senator John DeFrancisco said the D.O.T. is down to two options. One is to rebuild 81 in a way that allows a highway to pass directly through the city or the state is considering taking 81 out of downtown Syracuse and going with an urban boulevard concept. Sandra Barrett from the Onondaga Citizens League says taking the highway out has helped San Francisco and Milwaukee.

"Those cities not only survived taking down a highway but thrived, the neighborhoods where those viaducts were are thriving and the traffic that went through them has found other routes," said Barrett.

DeFrancisco and several business owners say taking 81 down could divert out of town drivers away from Syracuse and Destiny USA. The shopping and entertainment complex has become one of the largest tourist attractions in New York. Children's activity center Wonderworks built their first northeast location in Syracuse and general manager Todd Buchko says it was largely because of Route 81 running through the city

"Easy access from every major city coming through Syracuse was a huge reason why we choose to come," said Buchko.

Both sides say they hope people will look how Route 81 can be improved for the long term and what will benefit the most people.

The State Department of Transportation and Syracuse Metropolitan Transportation Council will host a public meeting on the future of I-81 at the Oncenter on Tuesday from 3:30 - 8:00 p.m. There the public can learn more about the proposals for the interstate, as well as provide their input into the decision-making process.

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