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CNY residents discuss I-81 at Katko’s town hall in Auburn

U.S. Rep. John Katko on Monday launched a series of town hall meetings to collect feedback from residents and stakeholders on the Interstate 81 project in Syracuse.

The crowd of more than 100 people at Cayuga Community College included Auburn Mayor Michael Quill, Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh, trucking company operators and residents from across the region. Katko, R-Camillus, opted to hold the town hall meetings as the state Department of Transportation is on the verge of releasing a draft environmental impact state examining options for replacing the I-81 viaduct.

There are three options for the future of the highway: Tear down the viaduct and install a community grid; rebuild the elevated highway; or construct a tunnel. According to the last estimates provided by the state, building a grid would cost $1.3 billion, constructing a new viaduct would cost $1.7 billion and the price tag for a tunnel would be at least $3.6 billion.

Advocates for each of the options were present at Katko’s town hall meeting. Representatives from central New York trucking companies spoke in opposition to the community grid. If a community grid is advanced, through traffic would be diverted to Interstate 481. Colleen Rejman, owner of Venice Trucking in Venice Center, said that change would add 18 miles to their trips.

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