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Schumer remains neutral on Interstate 81 replacement debate

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U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer is sticking by his decision not to get involved in supporting a particular option to replace the aging Interstate 81 viaduct through Syracuse. 

His counterpart, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), went on record last month standing behind the street-level community grid option. Schumer said his job is not choosing an option, but providing the funds to pay for it. 

"I don’t believe it’s my job as a Washington senator to say to a community, you have to do it this way," Schumer said. "Let the community decide, and I’ll try and get the dollars."

Schumer said it is important that the community coalesce around one option because there is a lot of competition for the Fast Track dollars a project like this would require. 

"There’s federal money for major projects that cost in the hundreds of millions, even the billions of dollars," Schumer said. "There’s huge competition for them, many more people applying for the projects. So, if the community is not united, we won’t get it."

The project has split the community between those who favor the community grid option and those who prefer the tunnel option. There's also calls for a hybrid option, which would combine the community grid and tunnel proposals.

The state is expected to release a study recommending on of the options early next year.