At the start of a virtual roundtable with central New York business leaders and elected officials on Friday, U.S. Rep. John Katko asked them what they think is the top infrastructure need for their area.
The responses were what he expected.
Beyond surface transportation infrastructure, broadband and water systems were identified as major priorities. Cayuga County Legislature Chairwoman Aileen McNabb-Coleman, who was one of the participants on the virtual roundtable, said they are working on a regional water plan to address concerns with Cayuga and Owasco lakes, both of which supply drinking water to communities in the county.
McNabb-Coleman added that there’s also work on regional broadband upgrades. Access to high-speed internet was mentioned as a challenge throughout the district. Corey Dunham, Syracuse’s chief operating officer, said broadband is a priority for the city.
Katko agreed that broadband is needed across the district. While acknowledging that the “digital divide is real,” he said the lack of high-speed internet in some communities has posed challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“For kids who are home from school, if you don’t have access to the internet, you have a problem,” he said.
One infrastructure-related topic that couldn’t be avoided: The future of Interstate 81. The state Department of Transportation identified a community grid as the preferred alternative to replace the I-81 viaduct in Syracuse. The Federal Highway Administration is working with the state to issue a draft environmental impact statement for public review.