Before you even entered Wednesday night’s Project 81 open house at Chestnut Hill Middle School, it was clear the Save 81 group was there to be heard.
The group’s main issue above all else is the economic impact. The community grid option would reroute I-81 drivers onto 481. Town supervisor Colleen Gunnip said she’s concerned drivers will skip over the town.
“My biggest fear is that the businesses leave,” said Gunnip. “These hotels leave and stand vacant and then we have no business in this corridor what so ever.”
Gunnip claims 15 hotels, 41 restaurants, and 9 gas stations would take a big hit. However, the DOT said these businesses will still be easily accessible. Through what would become ‘Business Loop 81.’
“What that allows us to do is to maintain a freeway,” said Project 81 director Mark Frechette. “So it’s much similar to what we have today and people will have quick access into and out of the city.”
Another concern heard tonight was travel time to hospitals.
Frechette said people north of the city shouldn’t be concerned. Let alone people in any suburb.
“There’s really nominal difference in time to get from the suburbs to our hospitals,” said Frechette. “In our conversations with emergency management, most of them get off the interstate now anyhow when they get to the city.”
Concerns over economic impact in Salina has forced the DOT to conduct further analysis. There’s no timeline for when it’s economic impact study will be complete.
“I want them to talk to the businesses that are going to be impacted,” said Gunnip. “I’d like a seat at the table and I’m still pushing for a solution that would work for both the city of Syracuse and the town of Salina.”
The DOT plans to hold formal public hearings in the future. They expect to have multiple question & answer style meetings.