Three cases for maintaining I-81

Why not Central New York?

New Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon is asking just that as the debate over how to address Interstate 81 continues and the federal government’s role in the process remains as important as ever.

“The (federal) money’s going to get spent on federal infrastructure somewhere. Why not have it done here?” County Executive McMahon said during an October interview on Newsmakers. “I think the smart play is for the governor to say, ‘Let’s look at the tunnel to keep traffic flowing through. We’ll have a community grid, which helps the city do what they want to do.'”

The new county executive is a supporter of a tunnel-community grid hybrid plan that would satisfy both sides of the debate. He calls the project “a 50- to 100-year decision,” underscoring the importance of selecting the right solution that will work for all in our region.

You can watch County Executive McMahon’s interview here.

Also in October, Sen. John DeFrancisco made a strong case for maintaining a north-south connection along the I-81 corridor. Put simply, a community grid that replaces this essential high-speed access would be unacceptable.

“The fact of the matter is that it doesn’t bring anybody together, and it brings pollution more into the city,” he said of community gridlock during a special presentation at the Oct. 8 DeWitt Town Board meeting.

Rick Coughlin of DeWitt also raised concerns at the meeting about what would happen to property values in the town if tens of thousands of vehicles are re-routed onto I-481 under a community grid scheme.

“I’m afraid of some sort of collateral damage to our property values in the town that might result, but collateral damage to DeWitt doesn’t seem to be an issue to decision-makers — we’re just going to have to deal with it,” he said.

You can read more about Sen. DeFrancisco’s presentation here.

One of the candidates seeking to replace Sen. DeFrancisco when he retires also advocated against community gridlock in October.

Onondaga County Comptroller Bob Antonacci wrote in the Post-Standard:

“I-81 does not just serve a local community. I-81 is truly an interstate highway serving a region beyond Central New York. Removing 81 through Syracuse will have detrimental impacts on the communities to the south and west of the City. DOT has done yeomen’s work in curbing heavy truck traffic cutting through the Finger Lakes Region. Removing 81 and forcing 18-wheelers to divert onto Interstate 481 and to the Thruway, costing them more time, money, and miles, will only increase demand on shortcuts such as those through the Finger Lakes. It is incumbent on the grid-only proponents to offer a solution today to such concerns beyond a promise that a fix will come tomorrow.”

You can read his full commentary here.