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All 19 Onondaga County town supervisors oppose grid to replace I-81

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO Public Media
Town supervisors in Onondaga County.

All 19 town supervisors in Onondaga County have come out against the community grid-only option to replace the I-81 viaduct in Syracuse. The other alternatives are a tunnel or a new elevated highway. Supporters of the grid continue to hold events around the city. 

Town of Clay Supervisor Damian Ulatowski said only the hybrid option, a tunnel with the community grid on top, can address the long-term solution to a debate that’s been going on for ten years.

“We get back that lost cityscape and create a foundation upon which we can start to rebuild the city of Syracuse while preserving its surrounding communities,” Ulatowski said.

Kerry Mannion, the deputy supervisor in the town of Dewitt, said every town has passed a resolution supporting the access on the existing path.

"It's about time the majority of the folks in central New York be heard; their opposition to a grid-only solution, because the grid-only solution works for a very select few," Mannion said.   

Town supervisors want to maintain the interstate going directly through the city, to avoid traffic spilling into the suburbs and harm to businesses that have grown along I-81. They said their voices are not being heard by the New York State Department of Transportation. They tried to arrange a meeting with Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul when she was in Syracuse, but were unsuccessful. And it’s a sentiment echoed by the Onondaga County Legislature earlier this month, after they passed a resolution calling on the state to include a legislator in the decision making process.

But Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh is standing firm with his support for the grid.

“I have made it a point from the very beginning to not dismiss anyone’s concerns about the 81 project, and to engage those that disagree with me,” Walsh said.

Advocates for the grid have been holding rallies and informational meetings explaining why they think it’s the best option. The Community for the Grid campaign said the grid is more financially responsible, better for the environment, and will create more economic growth.

A draft environmental impact statement on the options is expected to be released soon.

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.