Eleven hotels, dozens of restaurants and a handful of gas stations sit near I-81 in Salina. They all rely on business from the highway, but with the community grid, much of that traffic will be carried onto what's now 481 instead.
The Salina town supervisor said she is worried about the ripple effect.
"My biggest fear is that the business leave, these hotels leave and stand vacant and then we have no business in this corridor what so ever,” said Colleen Gunnip, the Salina Town Supervisor. “It decreases the assessed evaluation in the town of Salina and nobody will come here."
The proposal turns I-81 through Salina into "Business Loop 81." It's a way to appease business owners.
DOT officials held their final neighborhood meeting about the community grid, Wednesday. They wanted to hear from residents from the northern suburbs.
"Dependent upon where you live, you have different concerns and you know the DOT is listening to that,” said Mark Frechette, the I-81 Project Director. “As a result of that, we're trying to incorporate that into our alternatives."
Many residents in Salina say they want the highway to remain. They say I-81 is the backbone to their economy but they were overlooked in the community grid proposal. The town supervisor says the impact on the northern suburbs should have been studied sooner.
"They've been looking at this for 10 years,” said Gunnip. “They came out with a proposed solution, so I'm disappointed that they all of the sudden say that they're going to look at the economic impact that the town of Salina may have."
The DOT is now doing an economic analysis study for Salina. That will be included in the Environmental Impact Study that is expected next year.
To contact the regional state Department of Transportation office, call 1-855-I81-TALK (855-481-8255).
They can also be located at 333 E. Washington Street; Syracuse, NY 13202.