SYRACUSE, N.Y. - As the next round of Interstate 81 community forums kicks off Wednesday, more than 2,500 area residents have now signed’s petition in support of preserving I-81’s designation as an Interstate Highway through Syracuse. More than 40 percent of those petition signers are from the City of Syracuse.

"It’s becoming clear that a boulevard would have negative effects on traffic, businesses, and public safety in our area, and we’re seeing boulevard opposition explode in response," said Salina Town Supervisor Mark Nicotra, a member of "The upcoming forums are an important opportunity for residents to voice their concerns about the boulevard plan and ask state officials to focus on better options -- such as a tunnel, depressed roadway, or a new idea altogether. We’re hoping for a huge community turnout at all of these meetings."

The state Department of Transportation will host a community forum at 4 p.m. Wednesday at the Toomey Abbott Towers in Syracuse to discuss the future of I-81, the first of eight such neighborhood meetings. The forums will update residents on the project and offer an opportunity to ask questions, express concerns, and provide ideas. opposes the boulevard plan being considered by state officials to deal with the aging portions of I-81 in the area and believes there are multiple solutions that should be considered instead, including a tunnel, depressed roadway, a new bridge, a rebuilt elevated highway, or an idea that has yet to be proposed.