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I-81 reconstruction options discussed at Salina board meeting

The Bunker Hill Bridge in Boston. Onondaga County Legislator Kathy Rapp is suggesting that the I-81 reconstruction create a similar iconic bridge through Syracuse.

The Bunker Hill Bridge in Boston. Onondaga County Legislator Kathy Rapp is suggesting that the I-81 reconstruction create a similar iconic bridge through Syracuse.

— “But the thing is, either of the other alternatives would cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $1 billion,” she said. “To build the bridge would be about $105 million. That doesn’t put it out of the ballpark.”

Rapp said studies and surveys conducted by the SMTC have shown that people want two major things from the reconstruction: to maintain the short commute time — “Syracuse is a 20-minute town,” she said. “You can get anywhere in 20 minutes. No one else has that” — and to avoid dividing the city in half.

Salina Supervisor Mark Nicotra was dubious the reconstruction could accomplish that second goal.

“They want to get rid of that divide, but you can’t bring those neighborhoods back together,” he said. “It doesn’t make sense.”

Rapp agreed that she wasn’t sure how the DOT’s plans would come to fruition.

“They’re picturing the Champs-Elysees,” Rapp said. “But I’m concerned it’s going to look more like Erie Boulevard.”

The state DOT will hold a final meeting in the middle of May. Prior to that, on April 18, State Sen. John DeFrancisco will hold a meeting with all of the stakeholders to discuss options, and Nicotra suggested a meeting in the north suburbs to encourage comment from local businesses and residents.

Rapp said there is a push to get started on the project from the state.

“The governor is encouraging [the DOT] to move faster,” she said. “He’s doing the Tappan Zee Bridge in New York and he’s looking for a corresponding project upstate. This is a good option.”

In addition, in 2018, Syracuse has a contract for a major bowling tournament, which will bring approximately 60,000 extra people into town for about six months.

“If this isn’t taken care of, it’s going to be a tangled mess,” Rapp said. “They are going to do something.”

No matter which option is chosen, the construction would likely take years. Because a final option has not been selected, there are no plans on how to reroute traffic at the moment.

Rapp encouraged the town as well as citizens to give their input to the SMTC and the state DOT.

“It’s not often we have to make a 100-year decision,” she said. “This will shape our community for the next 100 years.”

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