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Transportation

Salina businesses, elected officials say losing I-81 would devastate area

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Tom Magnarelli
/
WRVO Public Media
Onondaga County Legislator Judy Tassone, center.

Businesses that have grown up in the footprint of I-81 north of Syracuse, could be affected by the state Department of Transportation’s selection of the community grid as the preferred alternative to replace the I-81 viaduct in Syracuse. Business leaders and elected officials in the town of Salina are speaking out against the DOT’s decision.  

Viraj Patel, vice president of the Country Inn & Suites in Liverpool off of I-81, estimates about 30 percent of his business comes from people who don’t have reservations, who are looking for something easy to get gas, food and sleep. He said he is worried that he is going to lose business if I-81 is rerouted to I-481, which goes around the city of Syracuse to the east.

“If we lose 30 percent of our business, that’s a huge reason to worry,” Patel said.

And he said he is not convinced of the DOT’s plan to keep I-81 the same, north of Syracuse, in what’s being called Business Loop 81.

“Just because you put a BL 81 sign on the road, doesn’t mean it’s actually an interstate.” Patel said.

Onondaga County Legislator Judy Tassone is urging workers at Destiny USA and the hotels, restaurants and other businesses affected by losing I-81 in the northern suburbs, to reach out to their state representatives and have their voices heard.   

“This is not about city versus suburbs," Tassone said. "This decision will devaste businesses that chose to locate in the current footprint of 81. Hundreds of jobs will be lost. You move this to 481, this is going to be desolate around here.”

Town of Salina Councilor Nick Paro said Salina is in the crosshairs of having the largest negative impact from the decision.

"81 serves up the customers for these business owners, and has increased the value of the properties in this area," Paro said. "The town survives off the property values being high. If something hurts those property values, it could be devastating for the town."

Paro estimated that close to 25% of the room occupancy tax generated in Onondaga County comes from Salina.

DOT is still in the process of setting up a public informational meeting, which could happen next month.