December 6, 2021

Potential traffic increase with I-81 project raises concern in Homer

‘Route 281 is already busy’

Shenandoah Briere/staff reporter

Homer Police Chief Robert Pitman is concerned that a grid option for Interstate 81 in Syracuse means drivers traveling west will exit in Homer in an effort to circumvent traffic and go through the village along roads like Route 281. However, Department of Transportation officials said they aren’t expecting that to happen.

More traffic could be coming to the village of Homer if a multi-billion dollar project to recreate Interstate 81 in Syracuse happens, said Police Chief Robert Pitman.

It’s why he wants to see if the village board is open to the idea of a community forum on the subject.

“I think you’re going to see a pretty decent increase,” he said.

“They (the state Department of Transportation) can’t forget us in this conversation because it’s ultimately going to affect us.”

“Personally I would leave it as is or a tunnel,” he said. “It’s (the grid) not a good idea.”

However, DOT officials said the project, known as the Community Grid Option shouldn’t affect the village much, if at all. The project would demolish the elevated viaduct that runs over Syracuse and bring the highway down to street level, take five years and cost between $1.9 billion and $2.2 billion.

“The New York State Department of Transportation is committed to working with local communities to address any concerns they may have about the Interstate 81 project,” said Glenn Blain, the assistant director of communications for the DOT in a statement. “We do not anticipate that the community grid alternative will significantly impact traffic volumes in the Village of Homer.”

The DOT is continuing to have informational sessions and forums across Central New York regarding the project. The next is 6 to 8 p.m. Sept. 11 at Chestnut High School in the town of Salina. Blain said “a timeline for the project will be determined as the project continues to move forward.”

Pitman said drivers traveling west will likely want to navigate around the grid, meaning they could get off in Homer and take Route 281 to either routes 90 or 41. Route 90 heads to Locke, where drivers could pick up routes 34 or 38 to Auburn’s west side. Routes 41 and 41A head to Auburn’s east side.

“Route 281 is already busy,” Pitman said.

But drivers have other options as well like taking routes 5 or 20 in Lafayette or Route 80 in Tully.

Or, Blain said drivers could just stay on Interstate 81.

“As part of the community grid option, motorists seeking westbound destinations will be able to maintain high-speed travel into and out of the City of Syracuse on Business Loop 81, which will follow the footprint of the existing viaduct. Only a 1.2-mile stretch of the viaduct downtown will be replaced by city streets.”

Pitman said he has not heard from the village on whether to have a forum. Mayor Darren “Hal” McCabe could not be reached for comment.