Trying to intensify I-81 debate in Syracuse: Matt's Memo

Route 81 under construction through downtown Syracuse circa 1960.

The question of what to do with the elevated section of Interstate 81 through downtown Syracuse failed the social media test for interest level today. On our CNYCentral Facebook page three of the stories we posted were one about I-81, another about a same sex marriage ban and a third about a billboard telling young men to pull up their pants to keep them from sagging and showing their underwear.

The story that generated the must interaction, discussion and shares was the one about the sagging pants. Next up the same sex marriage ban being discussed in Utah. A distant third, the story about a carefully crafted letter on the future of I-81 from the organization that represents business interests in the greater Syracuse area.

We posted a couple of links and asked different questions and different times of day. On a relative scale no one cared. That was remarkable. Centerstate CEO's effort to generate conversation over this critical issue may have worked in some high minded way, maybe even in offices and board rooms throughout the area. But, on Twitter and Facebook and the current realm of public opinion it fell flat.

It could be that the community is simply in a lull in the ongoing debate about what to do about tearing down the aging highway. There have been peaks and valleys in the level of interest in the discussion. One also has to be a bit concerned that the community is now seeing the decision making process as out of its hands.

There may be a perception after years of public meetings and input that the creative idea phase is over. The NY State DOT will either tear it down and build a boulevard or tear it down and put up another elevated highway in largely the same footprint of the existing road.

Those are the two options going out for environmental review and further analysis. Maybe people think the state will ultimately pick the cheaper choice of the two.

If there is any consensus developing in the greater Syracuse area it may be around this idea. The best I-81 answer lies outside of the two choices that have made the final round. The Centerstate letter suggests a similar idea. Congressman Dan Maffei has suggested the same. I've blogged about that here before.

It is important that community leaders stay in the ear of the state DOT in pushing for the best answer that will help elevate our community over the next several generations. This really is a far more important issue for a region that billboards telling young men to pull up their pants, even if that is the story that gets everyone talking on Facebook.

Any questions or comment please forward them to I may even use some of your thoughts on NBC 3 News at 5:00, the 10:00 News on CW6 or on

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