Save 81 gains momentum in August

August is prime time for summer vacations, but even if you’ve been away, it has been hard to miss all that is going on with conversation about how to rebuild Interstate 81 in Syracuse. Simply put, we’re seeing momentum for rebuilding this important highway so it continues to serve all of Central New York and beyond:

  • Gloria Sage of Syracuse wrote to the Post-Standard: “Removing the viaduct will most certainly result in gridlock. In recent years, the city has been unable to maintain streets and remove snow adequately. On a Sunday after one of our big snowfalls, it was difficult to drive downtown through the deep slush. It took three light cycles to cross Harrison Street on State street. Once I got on I-81, the conditions were fine.”
  • Former Syracuse City Auditor Minch Lewis wrote to the Post-Standard: “The hybrid tunnel/community grid plan is the clear consensus choice. It includes the street grid, with the added benefit of maintaining the use of Interstate 81 for Syracuse and Onondaga County residents; as well as for those visitors traveling from further distances. While many discount the importance of the link, the thousands of Central New Yorkers whose jobs and economic futures are dependent on it strongly disagree.”
  • Robert Shapiro of DeWitt wrote to the Post-Standard: “Please stop trying to change what works. Leave I-81 as the viaduct it is now. The only “magical thinking” (to quote you) is that tearing down I-81 will somehow improve our economy.”
  • Wayne McDonald of Brewerton wrote to the Post-Standard: “I travel all over doing construction and have seen all your ideas. They don’t work. Moving people at a fast pace does. It is all about time. Minutes matter.”

Support for maintaining I-81‘s existing route has only grown from there. Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney said just last week that she supports the construction of a tunnel to keep through traffic moving at highway speeds.

As part of our advocacy for maintaining I-81‘s highway designation, Save 81 has presented a tunnel-street option that could achieve consensus between those who want to keep traffic moving at high speeds and those who want new city streets downtown.

But what happens when a community grid sends heavy traffic along other routes to reach parts west of Syracuse? It’s a question Rep. John Katko is expressing concern about.

“There’s nothing in the plans that I’ve seen so far that accounts for the increased stress on local infrastructure,” he said at a recent public forum in Auburn.

The trucking industry itself is getting in on the conversation as well. Save 81 announced in August that the Trucking Association of New York has joined our coalition.

Steve Erwin, TANY’s Central Region Vice Chair, wrote to Eagle News:

It is unfathomable to demolish this critical transportation artery in favor of sending large trucks into a jammed community grid, or along a circuitous route that wastes time and money. We must maintain I-81’s current route for the sake of our industry and for the Central New York economy.

No matter the final choice, it couldn’t be more clear that maintaining a high-speed route is important to Central New Yorkers. A Central New York Business Journal poll found that 58 percent do not support a community grid replacement for I-81.