Save I-81 group out with poll showing opposition to tear down

Nov 11, 2013

A group of suburban politicians and business owners that support keeping Interstate 81 running through the city of Syracuse are out with a poll they say shows most residents agree with them.

Save 81 formed this summer to lobby against what then seemed like momentum towards replacing the aging elevated stretch of I-81 through downtown Syracuse with a six lane boulevard and rerouting the interstate. They say it will hurt businesses inside and outside of the city that rely on I-81 to bring customers to them. Others argue the elevated highway chokes off downtown and hampers development.

The 1.4 miles of elevated highway is beginning to crumble and transportation planner have set 2017 has a target for deciding what to do about the highway. If its path is maintained, the viaduct will likely need to be rebuilt with a wider footprint.

Save 81's poll found that 55 percent of residents prefer maintaining I-81 in its current path. Eighteen percent of those polled were in favor of the boulevard and 18 percent were supportive of a tunnel. It also found city and county residents evenly opposed to the boulevard idea.

The poll was commissioned by the opposition group, not an independent polling agency, and conducted by The Parkside Group. It has a margin of error of 4.9 percent.

On Wednesday, the state Department of Transportation will set up shop at the OnCenter from 3-8 p.m. for a "scoping meeting." Transportation planners will take written and oral comments on the decision process. Those comments will be considered as they begin a lengthy environmental review process of the options deemed feasible. They held a series of public information forums this fall.