Simple solution is best solution for Interstate 81

Originally Published at on December 22, 2016 -

To the Editor:

With all the bustle that comes with the Christmas season, we sometimes forget what the holidays are all about. So I would like to offer everyone a wish for simplicity this time of year. The simplicity of a baby boy born in a simple stable. The simple act of loving that changes the world. A desire to return to simpler times brought on by the crisp air and snowy nights of the Winter Solstice. The height of sophistication,which is simplicity.

And along with the simplicity of the season, I offer you the simplicity of the choice to take down Interstate 81 and replace it with the community grid. It seems that many of the people in the Save 81 camp have delusions of being a Boston or a New York City. When really we are a small city with a huge heart, but not huge wallets, and that is OK. I, for one, am not ready to spend more money on an unneeded piece of infrastructure that will result in a sunk cost -- no matter where that money comes from. Instead I can imagine a time when those excess funds might be diverted or recommissioned for sidewalk maintenance and snow removal through public job creation in our fair, snowiest city.

Boston's Big Dig ran nine years over schedule, finishing construction in 2007 at a total cost overrun of 190 percent. Can we afford such a disruption, or can we accept a simpler and slower pace for ourselves? My self-esteem is not so low that I need a highway running through my yard to feel important.

Do we want to be a 20-minute city, as the framers of Save 81 contest? Or do we want to be a community? Instead of being a 20-minute city, we should be planning toward being 20-minute neighborhoods in which every home has local services and facilities within a 20-minute walk, cycle or public transport. We should not plan just so we can make it to our grandiose destiny as fast as possible.

Finally, the opponents of the community grid put forth everything as an us-against-them argument, short-term thinking intended to hold onto the status quo of social and economic systems. It is important to differentiate between wishes of grandeur and realistic hopes for the future. A re-evaluation of identity might show us that a down-scaling of production and consumption can increase human well-being and enhance ecological conditions and equity. Such societies will no longer have to "grow or die" but can "thrive and live" within our means.

Frank Cetera

The writer was a candidate for Syracuse Common Council in 2015.

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