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Onondaga County Legislature chairman supports a hybrid option for I-81

Ellen Abbott
Onondaga County Legislature Chairman Ryan McMahon.

Onondaga County lawmakers will again be able to weigh in on the decision about the future of Interstate 81. Legislature Chairman Ryan McMahon will ask lawmakers to stand behind the option he believes is the best compromise among the plans being discussed.

McMahon wants the New York State Department of Transportation to keep the hybrid options in the mix when it comes up with the final list of design proposals this spring for fixing the crumbling interstate. The hybrid design could be any plan that would combine a boulevard alternative with either a tunnel, depressed highway or viaduct taking the bulk of traffic through the city.

McMahon says it’s the approach that will please the most stakeholders, from city officials that want a boulevard only with traffic routed to Interstate 481, to northern and western suburbs that maintain a detour would harm their communities.

“People can stay dug in. ‘I want my viaduct. I don’t care if it knocks down buildings downtown.’ ‘I want my boulevard. I don’t care what happens in the Town of Salina. The Town of Salina never should have developed this way anyways.’ I’ve heard it all,” McMahon says. “That’s nonsense. We need to come together. This is too big a decision to dig ourselves into a territorial decision.”

Opponents of these hybrid proposals believe they’d be the most expensive, but McMahon says that shouldn’t be the fact that drives what is ultimately the biggest public works project in central New York in years.

“If it costs more money -- cheapest isn’t always best. So let’s figure out how to pay for it and if there’s no way to pay for it, then you go back and figure out what plan B is,” McMahon says.

Lawmakers will vote on the resolution Tuesday.