Majority Support Keeping I-81's Current Route, New Poll Shows

Dec 6, 2016

The I-81 and I-690 interchange looking from the Crowne Plaza in Syracuse.
Credit Scott Willis

A group that wants to keep Interstate 81 – or at least its path – through downtown Syracuse has some new support for its position. A new poll by the group Save 81 showed that the majority of respondents support keeping the highway’s current route. Spokesperson Mark Nicotra said past surveys have showed that people are in favor of keeping 81 running through the city, and they wanted to feel the public’s temperature once again.

“We want to see it that still was the thought process and we thought it might be and we are certainly excited to see that it was.”

The survey of 1,100 respondents found 59 percent approve of the present course, while 34 percent said they favor the boulevard option, or the community grid. Save 81 proposed the Access Syracuse plan, which Nicotra described as “the best of both worlds.”

“You maintain a through highway, which is the tunnel. Then you put a boulevard on top, which satisfies the other faction of decision makers. So we thought it was the best of both worlds. Sure, it cost a little bit more, but it made it as functional as we could make it.”

Interstate 81 looking South towards downtown Syracuse.
Credit Scott Willis/WAER News

He said the Department of Transportation was too quick to dismiss the group’s plan, possibly failing to see its difference among other tunnel options.

“What they were presenting in terms of their tunnel plan weren’t exactly the Access Syracuse Plan, which is a much longer longer tunnel. And Access Syracuse Plan was a shorter tunnel than that. So it wasn’t apples to apples.”

Nicotra, who is also Town of Salina supervisor, worried that a change in traffic patterns will hurt businesses along the corridor if much of the through traffic uses route 481.

He said he hopes that the DOT recognizes the consistency in public opinion polls over the past few years.

The department has narrowed down construction options to replacing the viaduct or the community grid option.

A community meeting will be held Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Cicero-North Syracuse High School to discuss the future of I-81.