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Molinaro supports hybrid tunnel, community grid to replace I-81 in Syracuse

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO Public Media
State Sen. John DeFrancisco (left), Republican gubernatorial candidate Marc Molinaro (center) and Onondaga County Comptroller Bob Antonacci (right).

Republican gubernatorial candidate Marc Molinaro said a compromise approach to replace the aging Interstate-81 viaduct in downtown Syracuse seems to be the most appropriate way to move forward. Molinaro also criticized Gov. Andrew Cuomo for taking too long to make a decision.

Speaking in Syracuse Thursday, Molinaro weighed in on the I-81 debate and said a tunnel with a street-level community grid above it, makes perfect sense.

“Why is this an ongoing debate?" Molinaro asked. "Because we haven’t committed the resources or the time necessary to finalize a plan. Instead, the administration makes political decisions and those decisions are based on winning elections and you and us continue to debate issues that have been going on for far too long.” 

Cuomo has not weighed in on what should replace the viaduct and a draft environmental impact statement still needs to be completed. The state has spent almost a decade and millions of dollars studying the topic.

"The way that you build up community and make proper infrastructure investment is to be on the ground," Molinaro said. "Has the governor sat down with community leaders and had this conversation? Have there been real communication between the administration and local community members? No, because the governor pays no attention to upstate, until and unless it's necessary for campaign time." 

The state Department of Transportation originally rejected the tunnel option, but it was brought back to life by an outcry from the public and elected officials like state Sen. John DeFrancisco. A hybrid tunnel and community grid option could cost more than $3.5 billion and take nine years to complete.

“I’m a fiscal conservative but I’ll tell you one thing, if something is happening in New York City, nobody even cares about what the price is," DeFrancisco said. "And we are not chump change up here.”

DeFrancisco, who was seeking the Republican nomination for governor but dropped out, said the hybrid option is the best because it gets rid of the viaduct in downtown Syracuse, while allowing residents in the suburbs to get through without traveling around the city on a redirected I-81.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.