Representatives from Salina, Syracuse unveil ‘Grid + Skyway’ proposal for I-81

Future of 81

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Representative from the Town of Salina and advocates from the City of Syracuse say they have found common ground on a new plan for the future of Interstate 81.

Tuesday afternoon, 4th Ward Salina Town Councilor David Carnie, 1st Ward Salina Councilor Nick Paro, Alfonso Davis of Syracuse, candidate for Onondaga County Legislator District 16 Charles Garland, and former City of Syracuse Auditor Minch Lewis gathered near Wilson Park to discuss what they are calling the “Grid + Skyway Plan.”

Davis says he was able to discuss this new plan with United States Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D) and Chuck Schumer (D) along with U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg during their visit to Syracuse on Tuesday.

“We want the best of both worlds,” Alphonso Davis said. “If you look at (our plan) it keeps the grid and it also creates an elevated highway that will allow both universes to function at the same time. It is feasible and it is doable.”

Details about the plans cost and construction have yet to be fully presented by the group.

In April of 2019, The New York State Department of Transportation announced its preferred option for the future of Interstate 81– the community grid. That preferred option would remove the entire viaduct and route through traffic onto Route 481. 

Buttigieg got a personal presentation from state engineers about the Community Grid Thursday.

The Federal Highway Administration will have to approve the latest design in order to trigger a formal public comment period. Then, opinions for or against the plan will go on the record.

Buttigieg doesn’t make the decision on what happens to the highway, but he makes sure it gets funded.

Town supervisors from around Onondaga County stood together to announce their continued opposition to the State DOT plan earlier this year.

In April, Clay Town Supervisor Damian Ulatowski said, “None of us are against a community grid but it needs to be in conjunction with another alternative. Either a new elevated highway, a sky bridge, a depressed highway.”

In its endorsement of the community grid in a 2019 draft, the State DOT all but ruled out the last remaining contending option: a replacement raised highway in a similar format to the current I-81.

“We’ve written to the Secretary of Transportation. We’ve written to the governor. We’ve written to  Gillibrand. We’ve written to Schumer. Just about any other leader of the community and not once have we been recognized for our position or been invited to the table to have a dialogue,” said Ulatowski.

Governor Andrew Cuomo has set aside $800 million in the state budget for the project.

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