After 10 years of community meetings, studies, and fierce debate, the New York State DOT has chosen the “community grid” as the preferred alternative for I-81 through Syracuse. The elevated viaduct had reached the end of its useful life and did not meet modern standards for an interstate. Instead of an elevated viaduct, the corridor will become an urban boulevard connected to local streets. Syracuse is not the first city to see an elevated freeway come down, and it likely will not be the last, including in the state. New York will soon have to make a decision on what to do about the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.
The New York State DOT, the city, and the MPO have been working collaboratively for several years to develop alternatives for the replacement of the I-81 viaduct. There is agreement that something must be done about the 1.4-mile long, elevated segment of I-81 cutting through the city, but what to build in its place has not been decided. NYSDOT’s alternatives for this project will be out soon and will be included in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement. In anticipation of this step some stakeholders are making their priorities known.
Interstate 81, known locally as “the viaduct”, slices through the middle of Syracuse in upstate New York. The aging, elevated freeway effectively forms a barrier between the city and the Syracuse University neighborhood known as the Hill. A coalition of local businesses, education, and political leaders have come together to solicit input on whether to rebuild, replace, or remove the freeway. The process could serve as a model for other communities wrestling with a similar decision.