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Op-ed – Interstate 81: Voices from the Leaders of Towns & Villages

Over the past decade the discussion on the future of Interstate 81 has built momentum but never
reached critical mass because missing from the puzzle were the concerns of the County’s
municipalities.

Despite that, time and again, the leadership of those towns and villages have come together in
support of maintaining high-speed access through the CNY community. We’ve adopted resolutions
and sent letters to the Governor and our state representatives about the importance of this vital
roadway to our region now and into the future. And, while towns and villages such as Salina, Cicero
and DeWitt are designated as participating agencies in the latest version of the state Department of
Transportation (DOT)’s preliminary Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), the leaders of these
communities have yet to receive any notable or significant communication from DOT.

As the DOT heads into the recently added neighborhood meeting in Salina, now is the time to have
an honest, genuine conversation about the future of the I-81 project. While local community
leadership has yet to be heard regarding the format of these neighborhood meetings, it is time for
the residents of our towns and villages to demand an open dialogue and ask how this project will
impact the daily lives of CNY and Syracuse residents. Scheduling open public forums would be a
crucial step in the process to find a regional consensus solution. The state’s latest preliminary draft is
not final — each of us deserves a say in the future of our city and county.

That being said, we were extremely disappointed with Governor Cuomo’s recent endorsement of the
community grid option. A final meeting scheduled in Salina makes it crystal clear that our community
still has time to cooperate on this issue. The Governor’s endorsement sends a message that the state
does not understand the colossal impact of this project on our economy and on our residents. Until
the final EIS is released, we cannot move forward with a decision that will substantially impact the
future of all of us.

While silencing a majority of Onondaga County is problem enough, the latest preliminary DEIS also
ignores the regional economic impacts. In its current state, the community grid option has the
potential to cripple an already challenging economy. Without specifics regarding economic impact
on the potentially displaced highway businesses and attractions, it is clear that the DOT has not
considered the local economic factors affecting all of Onondaga County. The strategic placement
of such businesses and attractions has provided a foundation for the local economy we have spent
our lives developing. The DOT is still unprepared to explain what the negative impacts would be if
they were to plow under the foundation upon which we have built our economy.

The future of I-81 will affect the quality of life of Onondaga County residents and their children well
into the future. In making a generational decision such as this, it is only fair that all stakeholders have
an opportunity to have their voices heard. It’s more important than ever that our neighbors continue
to press for information on this project. With questions regarding economic impact in certain areas,
accurate traffic predictions and more, the residents of Onondaga County must come together and
urge the DOT to choose a path for I-81 that moves us all forward.

Damian M. Ulatowski
Supervisor, Town of Clay and President of the Onondaga County Supervisor’s Association
4401 State Route 31, Clay, NY 13041
(315) 652-3800 ext. 114
(315) 727-8199 Cell
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Supervisor, Town of Salina Supervisor, Town of Camillus

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Supervisor, Town of Onondaga Supervisor, Town of Marcellus

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Supervisor, Town of Elbridge Supervisor, Town of Cicero

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Supervisor, Town of Manlius Supervisor, Town of Van Buren

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Supervisor, Town of Spafford Supervisor, Town of Skaneateles

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Supervisor, Town of Dewitt Supervisor, Town of Fabius

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Supervisor, Town of Lysander Supervisor, Town of Geddes
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Mayor, Village of Skaneateles Mayor, Village of Marcellus

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Mayor, Village of Solvay Mayor, Village of North Syracuse

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Mayor, Village of Fayetteville Mayor, Village of Camillus

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Mayor, Village of Baldwinsville Mayor, Village of Minoa

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Mayor, Village of Jordan
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Town Clerk, Town of Clay Deputy Town Clerk, Town of Clay

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Town Clerk, Town of Elbridge Deputy Town Clerk, Town of Elbridge

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Secretary to Supervisor, Town of Elbridge Assessment Clerk, Town of Elbridge

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Town Clerk, Town of Lysander Town Clerk, Town of Otisco