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Lawmakers want state to reconsider tunnel option for I-81 through downtown Syracuse

Ellen Abbott
WRVO News (file photo)
I-81 through Syracuse

Central New Yorkers have one last chance to offer their opinions about the future of Interstate 81 through downtown Syracuse. But the forum being held Wednesday night is not an event put on by the people making the decision.

New York State Transportation Commissioner Matt Driscoll says he expects to make a recommendation next month to either rebuild the crumbling I-81 viaduct where it stands now in the city of Syracuse, or reroute traffic around the city and create a boulevard where I-81 is now. These two final options are the result of years of community discussions and pubic hearings on the issue.

But the problem is, the two most experienced state lawmakers from Syracuse say those two options, in particular the one that creates a boulevard, do not represent what the people want.

"The majority of people want 81 to follow the same route it is now. It’s been that way from day one, it hasn’t changed. So why are we continually fighting what the majority of people want?” asked Assemblyman Bill Magnarelli (D-Syracuse).

Credit Ellen Abbott / WRVO News
State Senn. John DeFrancisco and other Syracuse lawmakers on Monday, announcing a public forum on the future of I-81.

Magnarelli believes cost is the big reason the state is not considering a third option he believes would make everyone happy -- a tunnel or depressed highway.

"It takes into account having a boulevard or community grid on top, and keeping the highway going through the city on the bottom. That’s the true consensus, that’s what we’ve heard, that’s what everybody wants to see. Why aren’t we talking about it?” asked the assemblyman.

Magnarelli and State Sen. John DeFrancisco (R-Syracuse) will be holding a hearing on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at Henniger High School in Syracuse to get people talking about that as well as the other options for I-81.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.