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Walsh, McMahon react to state DOT report on options to replace I-81 in Syracuse

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO Public Media
Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon and Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh.

Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon and Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh were briefed by the New York State Department of Transportation on why the DOT chose the community grid as the best option to replace the Interstate-81 viaduct in downtown Syracuse. While Walsh and McMahon were on different sides of the debate, both came together in a show of unity as the project enters the next phase. 

McMahon said while he believes that a hybrid tunnel with a community grid was the best approach, there can still be a net positive outcome.

“Now is an opportunity for the community to move forward and look at this project through lenses and eyes of others," McMahon said. "Now is an opportunity to understand, maybe, what are the impacts to the town of Salina? What are the impacts to western traffic, eastern traffic, northern traffic? It’s in all of our interest to address these issues. There will be opportunities for us to look at the region as a whole, now that we have this document, to figure out what mitigation opportunities are there, and where we need to have mitigation.”  

Walsh, who favored the grid, summed up his feelings.

“I am so excited about the opportunity that this project presents,” Walsh said.

He said he agrees, concerns need to be addressed.

"I've heard from many people in the city, living within the shadow of 81 itself, concerned about what happens regardless of the outcome, what happens to their homes, what happens to the land around there," Walsh said. "We need to listen to the concerns of our suburban neighbors, businesses that have their business model based largely on the existing infrastructure. Those living within the shadow of this viaduct, particularly those within the Syracuse Housing Authority properties, those that live on the south side, those that live on the north side, most directly impacted by this project; we must make sure that they are informed and that they are heard, that we hear them.”

Beginning in June, the DOT will hold public meetings in different neighborhoods and communities. After the meetings, a public hearing will be held, followed by a 45-day comment period. A final environmental impact statement and record of decision won’t be made until next year.  

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.