Despite a Draft Environmental Impact Statement on Interstate 81 renovations in Syracuse that suggests routing through traffic to a ring road, local residents are still pushing for maintaining the current route.

The highway currently cuts through Syracuse on viaducts. The Environmental Impact Statement calls for an expansion of Route 481, which already skirts the city, and turning the former Route 81 into a ground-level traffic grid. The total cost of the community grid is $1.9 billion, while rebuilding the viaduct would cost $2.2 billion.

On Monday, however, 350 hotel employees from 13 hotels signed a letter opposing the community grid, saying it would risk tourism revenues for the city.

“As the employees of hotels in Onondaga County, our livelihoods are based on the success of the travel and tourism industry, which is unquestionably boosted by the current I-81,” read the letter, which was sent to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. “Maintaining the existing path of I-81 with its high-speed access is the only way to ensure that our employment remains viable and our hotels can keep their doors open for years to come.”

The news release on the letter came from Save 81, a self-described “diverse coalition of concerned citizens, elected officials, employers, unions, and community group.”

The plan has also been opposed by the Republican majority of the Onondaga County Legislature.

The Impact Statement remains a draft, and nothing has been settled yet.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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