What’s At Stake


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Join us in support of saving I-81 to protect Syracuse’s economic future!

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I-81 serves as an economic backbone for the region, connecting commuters, tourists, patients and students with local businesses, attractions, healthcare facilities and higher education institutions, while also providing a direct route through and connecting the rest of the community with Downtown Syracuse.  Tearing down I-81 and rerouting it around the city could have profoundly negative economic and public safety consequences while also clogging traffic in Syracuse, which today is known as a “20-minute city” where you can get anywhere in a short period of time.

Over the last 50 years, many employers and organizations have strategically located themselves near I-81.  Numerous hotels, restaurants, gas stations and the Destiny USA shopping and entertainment complex would face a substantial loss of visitors and revenue if I-81 traffic were to be diverted away from the city.

The current I-81 traffic pattern plays a key role in public health and safety. Officials in neighboring towns like Skaneateles, Geddes, DeWitt and Owasco have expressed concern that an increase in big trucks hauling large volumes of trash and hazardous waste would pass through their communities if the state chose to tear down and reroute I-81.

Moreover, emergency services rely on the quick and efficient access I-81 provides to city hospitals.  A congested, street-level boulevard with traffic lights would increase the amount of time it takes for emergency responders to reach their destinations.  In these instances, even the smallest delays could be disastrous.

A diverse group of concerned citizens, elected officials, employers, unions and community groups are already on record in support of maintaining I-81’s current alignment and Interstate Highway designation through the city.  The Onondaga County Legislature, by unanimous vote, recently voted to ask the DOT to retain the Interstate Highway through the city rather than downgrade it to a boulevard.  Similarly, the Boards of Salina, Owasco, Geddes, DeWitt, Sennett, Fleming and 23 other municipalities have approved similar resolutions, asking DOT not to downgrade I-81 into a boulevard.

Maintaining the highway’s current route and designation through Syracuse is essential to the region’s economy and accessibility.  Of the alternatives that have been proposed, those that maintain the existing alignment and Interstate designation present the best options.  Removing I-81 and rerouting traffic away from the city would negatively affect public safety, undermine the ease of accessibility that Syracuse is known for and would cripple an already fragile local economy.

Tony Mangano, owner of four hotels near the viaduct: Interstate “81 is a very important artery. … It’s Main Street to my kind of business.”

Casey Jordan, Onondaga County legislator from Clay: “It would be a huge mistake to make it a boulevard. It would effectively eliminate one of the main attractions of living in this area: the ease with which you can get around the community.”

Kathleen Rapp, former Onondaga County legislator from Liverpool: “We’re asking planners at the DOT to be sure that we continue to have a federal highway coming through our city and not going around our city.”

Greater Syracuse Hospitality & Tourism Association: “We are strongly opposed to the possibility of removing or diverting Interstate 81, as we believe that access to hotels, businesses, attractions and points of interest in our community will be negatively impacted.”

Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney: “I like it in theory because it satisfies everybody. You get the community grid and you get the high speed access.”

U.S. Representatives John Katko, Elise Stefanik, Claudia Tenney, Chris Collins, Tom Reed, Sean Patrick Maloney: “We believe it is critical that any replacement (of I-81) ensures the efficient movement of highway traffic on the north-south corridor for both people and product.”

Central New York Area Labor Federation, Central and Northern New York Building & Construction Trades Council, and other union leaders: “Some of the workers we represent also depend on I-81 to perform their jobs and fulfill the needs of their employers. Disrupting the current traffic flow could affect how area workers get their jobs done.”

Former Onondaga County Executive Nicholas Pirro: “My conclusion is that a community grid would be disastrous both for the City of Syracuse and northern suburbs and especially harmful to jobs and the economy by diverting traffic around Syracuse.”

Former Syracuse Mayor Roy Bernardi: “I believe it makes sense to continue to have Interstate 81 provide safe and convenient access to Syracuse; whether it be through an architecturally appealing elevated structure, a shortened depressed roadway or a tunnel with a street roadway at grade. If advanced correctly, any of these solutions can meet the priorities and objectives of the different stakeholders who have weighed in on the best solution.”

Trucking Association of New York Central Region Vice Chair Steve Erwin: “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.”