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DeWitt residents worry about more traffic on I-481 if community grid replaces I-81 in Syracuse

Tom Magnarelli
DeWitt residents attend an I-81 informational meeting.

Residents in the town of DeWitt got a chance to see the final two proposals for reconstructing Interstate-81 through downtown Syracuse. Rebuilding the viaduct or replacing it with a street-level community grid could impact the DeWitt area.

If the state goes with the community grid option, Interstate-481, which runs through DeWitt, would be redesignated as the new I-81. It would circumvent the city of Syracuse rather than going through it as I-81 does currently and would continue to do if the viaduct is rebuilt.

That has DeWitt residents such as Kathy McGrath worried about traffic congestion, noise and property values.

"I want to make sure they tell us what we're in for and consider ameliorating any impacts that they can," McGrath said. "I guess I just want to make sure that they not only look at benefits to the city, which would be significant and that’s important to look at, but the impacts of us out here of having through traffic on us that wasn’t there before."

It is a view shared by another DeWitt resident, David Jureller.

“I honestly feel that the boulevard is a better solution," Jureller said. "I think it will lessen the barriers between the city, geographically. I think visually it will be a nicer impact. But I have grave concern about the amount of traffic that it will push to the eastern suburbs, specifically noise. That's why I am here to try to find out what the state plans to do about that to protect the value of the neighborhoods and to buffer the noise and try and streamline that aspect of the project.”

The state will release an environmental impact statement on the two options in early 2017 and DeWitt residents hope a study on the noise and other factors will be included.

Gene Cilento, from the New York State Department of Transportation said if I-481 is redesignated as I-81, about 12 percent of the current I-81 traffic would come with it. The traffic on I-81 through Syracuse can get as high as 99,000 vehicles a day which could mean a little less than 12,000 additional vehicles might use I-481 to bypass downtown.

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.