Long-Awaited Project Would Be Largest Project Built by the Department of Transportation
Part of Governor’s $311 Billion Infrastructure Plan Supported By This Year’s Budget – Largest in the Nation & Most Expansive in State’s History
Public Hearing Anticipated to Take Place This Summer
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo on Friday April 9, announced that the FY 2022 Enacted State Budget includes $800 million toward the first phase of construction on the long-awaited I-81 viaduct replacement project. The project will remove the existing elevated structure separating the City of Syracuse by constructing an integrated Community Grid that will disburse traffic along local north-south streets, create a new business loop and reconnect the neighborhoods severed by construction of the interstate. The project will also construct new shared-use paths for pedestrians and bicyclists and enhance access to public transportation services within the downtown core.
“For years we have been working on a solution to transform the obsolete and poorly designed I-81 viaduct in Syracuse into a modern transportation corridor, and this year’s budget is making it a reality,” Governor Cuomo said. “We’ve listened to the community, addressed concerns related to the project and put our best plan forward – now it is time for action. We look forward to that historic day when the first shovel breaks ground on this important project.”
The State Department of Transportation has been working with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration to finalize the draft Environmental Impact Statement for this transformative project and is on schedule to release the DEIS for public comment and to conduct a public hearing later this summer. After federal concurrence is achieved, the project will break ground in 2022.
The project aims to reverse the classic 1950s planning blunder that separated the heart of the City by providing new opportunities for inclusion and equity afforded by the construction of the Community Grid, which the State Department of Transportation has determined will best meet the objectives of the project. The Community Grid will provide a boulevard-like setting that will support safe and ADA accessible pedestrian and bicycle amenities throughout the project.
This announcement builds upon strategic transportation investments to enhance the mobility and economic competitiveness of the Central New York Region, including construction of the region’s first Inland Port; the Syracuse Connective Corridor; the reimagining of the Syracuse-Hancock International Airport; and construction of a new ramp on Interstate 690 providing direct access to the Great New York State Fair.
Central New York leaders were quick in their to respond to the long-awaited project
According to Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh, “Funding in the State Budget for phase one of the I-81 Viaduct project brings this transformational opportunity one step closer to reality. The Community Grid is the right alternative to improve transportation for Syracuse and Central New York and to correct the decades long harmful impacts of the viaduct on people and our community. I thank Governor Cuomo and the Legislature for taking the steps to ensure this critically important project gets started as soon as possible.”
Both New York State Senator’s representing our area are supportive of the plan, NY State Senator John W. Mannion said, “Replacing I-81 is a once in a generation opportunity to fundamentally improve the City of Syracuse through modernized transportation infrastructure that supports new economic activity, existing businesses, and our communities of color that have been negatively impacted by the viaduct for decades. I look forward to working closely with the Department of Transportation on moving this project forward in a timely manner. I am also committed to ensuring that local labor has a seat at the table and as many jobs as possible come from the Central New York workforce.”
NY State Senator Rachel May added, “The I-81 project has been lingering over Central New York for well over a decade. I am thrilled the work is starting on the community grid, and believe this project will be a major part of Syracuse’s bright future. I will continue to advocate for urban design decisions and public investments that benefit all of Syracuse’s residents, taking into account both historical wrongs and the current long-term impact this project will have on many of our most vulnerable community members. I look forward to working with DOT and community stakeholders to continue these critical conversations as this project unfolds.”
And Assemblymember Pam Hunter said, “Replacing the current viaduct with a Community Grid is a crucial investment into our city, county, and region. We welcome the State’s $800 million investment into our region to kick-start the first phase of this project. As we move forward, we need to ensure that every aspect of this project takes all the stakeholders into consideration.”
Pending federal concurrence, plans call for Phase 1 of the project to include work on the northern and southern sections of Business Loop 81, work on I-690 over Crouse and Irving Avenues, and the conversion of I-481 to I-81 including a number of road and bridge projects along the corridor.
The $1.9 billion project will enhance vehicle access from the interstate to key destinations within the Community Grid, including the downtown business district, hospitals and Syracuse University. It will relieve existing traffic congestion issues on I-81, the Harrison Street/Adams Street interchange and Almond Street, by constructing a Business Loop 81 along Almond Street to improve connections to downtown and other business districts, effectively disbursing traffic at controlled intersections throughout the City.
For more information on the project, please visit https://www.dot.ny.gov/i81opportunities