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Saving 81: Local officials, business leaders launch campaign to keep elevated highway

Salina Supervisor Mark Nicotra speaks at a press conference launching a campaign called Savei81.org, which brings together a number of elected officials, business leaders and union officials to call for the state DOT to maintain I-81 as an elevated highway. Behind him are Onondaga County Legislators Kathy Rapp, left, who represents the fifth district (parts of the towns of Salina and DeWitt) and Judy Tassone, who represents the fourth district (parts of the towns of Salina and Geddes).

Salina Supervisor Mark Nicotra speaks at a press conference launching a campaign called Savei81.org, which brings together a number of elected officials, business leaders and union officials to call for the state DOT to maintain I-81 as an elevated highway. Behind him are Onondaga County Legislators Kathy Rapp, left, who represents the fifth district (parts of the towns of Salina and DeWitt) and Judy Tassone, who represents the fourth district (parts of the towns of Salina and Geddes).

— Another of the confirmed supporters is Salina Supervisor Mark Nicotra, a vocal opponent of the proposed changes to I-81.

“I signed on because of the diversity of the group. It’s not just made up of elected officials from the north suburbs,” Nicotra said. “It’s elected officials, it’s business leaders, it’s union officials, it’s people from all over the region, and we’re all on the same page. We all want to keep 81 as an interstate. We all have our own unique reasons as to why.”

The organization’s website lists more than 40 supporters. But is everyone listed really behind the initiative?

Initially, the website had also listed several state legislators and Rep. Dan Maffei, but within 24 hours of its launch, those names had been pulled and the following message had been posted:

“We inadvertently included several elected officials, including Rep. Dan Maffei, on an earlier version of this list. We apologize for the error and this list is current.”

However, it appears that statement is erroneous. Onondaga County Legislator Danny Liedka said he never signed on to be part of the campaign.

“I never signed on as a member of anything,” said Liedka, who represents the seventh district. “I actually have an open mind on the whole thing. I prefer the tunnel option, but I think it’s too early in the process to make any kind of decision.”

Cicero Town Supervisor Jim Corl also said he hadn’t officially added his name to the initiative.

“I haven’t signed onto this 81 campaign yet,” he said in an email to the Star-Review.

That’s not to say that, just because they haven’t officially added their name to the list, they’re not in agreement with its ideals. Corl has expressed concerns about the state’s plans in the past. And he’s not alone; leaders in Salina, Owasco, Geddes, DeWitt, Sennett and Fleming have passed resolutions asking the state DOT not to turn I-81 into a boulevard, while the towns of Clay, Skaneateles and others have expressed concern about the potential reconstruction.

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