Regional Development Association comes out in favor of the Community Grid, with conditions
At a press conference held on Friday, February 22, CenterState CEO’s Robert Simpson announced the organizations support for the Community Grid with conditions that include, “10 points of enhancement”. It’s become clear that the removal of interstate 81 through the city of Syracuse has been a thorny issue to say the least. As the debate has developed over what to do with the aging span of elevated highway that runs directly through the city of Syracuse.
To those observing that there’s no way to gain consensus beyond where we are, due to entrenched positions. Suburban towns and villages are rightfully concerned about the number of trucks that will be going through their areas, vehicles that once barreled through the center of Syracuse via the current route of interstate 81.
Some of the traffic is caused by waste from downstate that is sent to an area dump, this redesign shifts that traffic. Suburban and rural communities have a right to be concerned and CenterState CEO’s, 10 points of enhancement attempts to address their concerns. Suggestions include but aren’t limited to closing the Seneca Landfill, which would reduce traffic in areas of impact; installation of signage that directs traffic to 7th North Street area hotels and Destiny USA.
Studies have indicated that only 12% of Interstate 81 use is for through traffic, meaning we’re using the highway to serve local needs. Taking down the elevated span would follow a trend that’s occurring across the country as cities attempt to undo the damage done to communities by running expressways through center city areas.
As Assemblymember Pamela Hunter indicated last week and now CenterState CEO, enough debate, it’s time to make a decision. Attempts by multiple agencies and stakeholders at gaining regional consensus have not moved people from positions opposing the Community Grid option. Options floated including a tunnel are seen as expensive and too disruptive to be considered as viable alternatives to re-routing Interstate 81 to a newly branded and improved 481, reconnecting north of the city enabling the city to repurpose land now available to future development.
While explaining their support for the Community Grid Plus 10 CenterState CEO’s Robert Simpson acknowledged the needs of the entire community cautioning, “a road is not going to solve all of our problems”.
While the “road” itself may not solve our issues CenterState’s “10 Points of Enhancement”, includes establishing a community-oriented Revitalization Commission to give a voice to all community stakeholders to shape a revitalization plan moving forward.
As traffic patterns are changed the organization calls for a special fund established to provide financial assistance to areas that experience a reduction in traffic as a result of the route changes. “Develop new opportunities by investing in demand drivers to increase visibility for visitation and overnight stays.”
Towns and Village Impacts
The expanded CSX rail Terminal in Dewitt is going to attract more traffic in addition to downstate garbage traveling through local areas, the plan calls for measures to mitigate the impact by suggesting a number of measures designed at address these concerns.
Below is Community Grid Plus: 10 Points of Enhancement as presented to the public by CenterState CEO on Friday February 22nd.
Community Grid Plus: 10 Points of Enhancement
CenterState CEO recommends a Community Grid Plus solution that builds on the foundation of the New York State Department of Transportation’s (NYSDOT) proposed Community Grid alternative with ten points of enhancement. CEO recognizes that no single solution – grid, new viaduct, or tunnel – is adequate to fully maximize the economic transformation and social benefits of this project for the region. The Community Grid, however, best reflects the values set forth by CenterState CEO, and these Grid Plus enhancements seek to address more than just the roadway by
advocating for additional elements to more fully meet the economic, environmental, social, and transportation needs identified by our community throughout this process. CenterState CEO is committed to working with stakeholders across the community to add to, refine and advance these enhancements.
1. Regional Roadway And Public Transportation Improvements
This project should go beyond tackling just the elevated portion of I-81 through the city by addressing the entire regional transportation system, including:
- Incorporate public transit enhancements – in advance of I-81 construction – adopting recommendations of the Syracuse Metropolitan Transportation Council’s current mass transit study (SMART 1).
- Designate remaining spur sections of I-81 north of I-690 interchange and south of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive as the “I-81 Business Spur.”
- Improving the Bear Street corridor to enhance transportation infrastructure and support the development of the Inner Harbor and the surrounding area.
- Add an additional lane to I-481 between exit 3 (Fayetteville/Dewitt) and the northern interchange of I-481/I-81 in both directions as well as other places where appropriate.
- Redesign interchanges and over/under passes along I-481 for safe pedestrian, cyclist, and vehicular traffic flow.
- Develop and implement plans that create an interconnected system of bike and pedestrian ways in communities divided by I-481.
- Eliminate tolls on the NYS Thruway in the Syracuse area to facilitate east/west traffic movements and accommodate truck traffic.
2. Minimize “Common Features” Impact
The “Common Features” are elements of the project NYSDOT plans to construct regardless of the alternative selected. To minimize negative impact to Syracuse’s Northside community, eliminate the construction of the:
- “Missing Links” between I-81 and I-690.
- Additional lanes for I-81 north of downtown between I-690 and Hiawatha Boulevard.
There should be a full examination of noise impacts along the portions of I-81 remaining as spurs in the city, as well as the current I-481 corridor, and development of a plan to work with local residents to design and install sound attenuation measures, where appropriate, that also provide environmental benefits (e.g. vegetation for filtering pollutants, solar panels to generate electricity, etc.).
Community Grid by the Numbers
- 2 MILES of Highway Replaced by Surface Streets
- 4 – 7 YEARS to Complete Up to
- 7 ACRES Returned to Tax Rolls
- $1.3 BILLION Least Expensive Option
A special fund should be established to provide financial assistance as necessary for:
- Communities and businesses that may experience a reduction in traffic, developing new opportunities to invest in “demand drivers” to increase visibility for visitation and overnight stays.
- Urban design assistance to enhance all communities adjacent to the highway.
- Implementing a comprehensive, holistic mixed-use and mixed-income revitalization plan for the East Adams neighborhood.
- Mitigating the loss of parking in the City of Syracuse.
5.Inclusive Employment Commitment
There needs to be a strong commitment to inclusive employment and contracting opportunities, providing preference for contractors and employers that ensure jobs created by the project are filled by local M/WBE contractors and residents.
Establish a community-oriented Revitalization Commission to give a voice to all community stakeholders to shape a revitalization plan moving forward. This group would develop strategies and metrics to:
- Turn excess land within the city back to the community for redevelopment and rebuilding the local tax base.
- Incorporate inclusive development principles for property disposition and construction activities.
- Consider how to assist the suburbs in developing lands adjacent to I-81 and I-481.
7.Mitigate Trucking Impacts On Towns And Villages
Work with community partners to address concerns about truck traffic.
- Mitigate issues related to truck traffic in the western towns; on city streets; in the towns along I-481 – as truck traffic shifts east to access the enhanced CSX terminal in DeWitt; and encourage more shipments to travel by train.
- Develop a comprehensive rail and freight plan for the region.
- Transfer ownership of certain state routes to the county or locality, enabling them to regulate truck traffic.
Establish a special fund to ensure the long-term maintenance of infrastructure and city streets used for the Grid.
9.Traffic Coordination And Signal Enhancements
Improve traffic flow and congestion at peak travel times by coordination and optimization between state-, county-, and city-owned signals.
10.Construction Process Improvements
Measures should be taken to better utilize this opportunity for the community’s benefit including:
- Breaking the project into smaller components to allow more local contractors a better opportunity to bid on and be engaged with the project.
- Use design build or conventional design, bid, build delivery processes to their best advantage on the different components of the project.