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11/12/2013 03:49 PM Posted By: Bill Carey
CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Debating the future of Interstate 81
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The state Department of Transportation will hold another meeting this week, discussing plans for the future of Interstate 81 in Syracuse. YNN's Bill Carey says there are new questions being raised by an engineering report released by a group that wants the highway left intact.

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- It is a project that has effectively split the region. City versus suburb. What to do about the aging Interstate 81? The elevated interstate is facing the end of its planned life span in 2017.

For years, city officials have complained that the highway split Syracuse in two, destroying neighborhoods in the old 15th Ward, forcing many into housing projects like Pioneer Homes. They've talked again and again of removing the highway, replacing it with a boulevard.

"You would have, along that boulevard, apartment houses. You would have commercial buildings. You would also have retail stores. It would free up a lot of property and not only that, but it would knit the city back together again," said Syracuse Common Council President Van Robinson.

Opponents of the boulevard plan, primarily from the suburbs, now say they have a new review by a national engineering firm, Maser Consulting, that finds the city argument is flawed.

The critics say in order to build a boulevard wide enough to handle the traffic, the city wouldn't gain property to develop. It would actually lose property. Among those properties to be disrupted would be the land currently housing Pioneer Homes.

"The idea of reconnecting the City of Syracuse, bringing the 15th Ward back together again, helping to create opportunities for commerce within the city, when we look at the current boulevard plan, that just does not happen with it," said Onondaga County Legislature Chairman Ryan McMahon.

The city has claimed the removal of the highway would lower boundaries and encourage more people to travel from one section of Syracuse to another.

Robinson said, "There would be pedestrian crossings at intervals. There would also be bicycle paths, as well as pedestrian paths. In addition, the traffic would be slowed to the city limits, 30 to 35 miles per hour."

The new study claims that would mean massive congestion on city streets.

The pushback against the boulevard plan has been growing. But the city remains hopeful.

"You have not heard from the people of the City of Syracuse, yet," Robinson said.

McMahon said, "This is a regional decision. This isn't a decision that's going to be made from the confines of the City of Syracuse."

The state has no deadline, yet, for a final decision.

The state's so-called "scoping" meeting on the Interstate 81 project is set for Wednesday afternoon and evening at the Oncenter in Syracuse.


11/06/2013 01:12 PM Posted By: Web Staff

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- The Department of Transportation unveiled its new website for the Interstate 81 Viaduct project.

The initial scoping meeting, following the DOT's neighborhood meetings, is scheduled for Wednesday, November 13 from 3 p.m. until 8 p.m. Presentations will also be held at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. at the Oncenter.

The new website, I-81 Opportunities, allows people in Syracuse to submit comments and ideas for the future of the interstate. Head to www.dot.ny.gov/i81opportunities, to check it out.


Updated 10/24/2013 02:21 PM Posted By: Bill Carey
CNY/NNY/S. Tier: What to do with Interstate 81?
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It could be the biggest change in the Syracuse area in the past half century: The decision on what to do with Interstate 81. The state seemed close to a decision on scrapping the elevated highway through the city. But as YNN's Bill Carey reports, that plan has run into new, very vocal opposition.

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- It was a plan to finally rid the City of Syracuse of a viaduct system carrying an interstate highway. A highway that critics said had destroyed neighborhoods.

The plan? To move interstate traffic onto Interstate 481 around the city and replace the elevated highway with a boulevard.

As the state moved closer to approval, opponents began to organize to block the project. Now forming Save81.org to fight against the boulevard concept.

"Now we've woken up, as well as we need to have the rest of the community to wake up that this is a reality," said Salina Town Supervisor Mark Nicotra.

While the group acknowledges it may have been a mistake to build Interstate 81 through the heart of the city, they say the die was cast a half century ago. That moving that highway now would be an even bigger mistake.

The loudest complaints come from business leaders who say the interstate is their lifeline, delivering customers to their doors.

"We'd see fewer customers and a diminishing of our business and the way business works, we would have to relocate our store to a different spot," said Jim Bright of Dunk and Bright Furniture.

"We came because it's there. Now, if you take it away, what's to become of the already fragile economy of Central New York?" asked Bruce Kenan of Destiny USA.

"If we take down the structure that we're building around, what's the sense of that?" asked Ann Marie Taliercio, UnitedHERE 150 Union. "We've bought our houses, we've built our businesses. We've decided where to live, what kind of communities. We've built our lives around it."

The State Department of Transportation is promising many more meetings and much more discussion before it adopts any final plan for Interstate 81. The coalition is, for the time being, staying away from endorsing any options.

"We don't have any pre-ordained design about how this thing should look. We just want to make sure that we continue to have a federal highway," said Onondaga County Legislator Kathleen Rapp.

A highway they say the area cannot afford to lose.

The new coalition has a website, Save81.org, that they're hoping to use to organize opposition to the Boulevard plan for Interstate 81.


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