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Harriet Tubman Family Lend Name of Famous Abolitionist to I-81 Bridge Proposal through Syracuse

IMAGE - Harriet Tubman Memorial Freedom Bridge.jpg
Provided Photo - Charles Garland
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Would this bridge, with Harriet Tubman's name attached, be a better solution for replacing a portion of I-81 through Syracuse? Dozens of members of Tubman's family think so, as well as some local businesses.

As the open comment period for the I-81 project in Syracuse continues, some are pushing for a replacement bridge instead of demolishing the viaduct and going with a grid option. A gathering was held Thursday with members of Abolitionist Harriet Tubman’s family at Wilson Park that overlooks the viaduct, who back the idea, and are lending Tubman's name to the proposal.

Funeral Director Charles Garland says he and his family were forced to move when the current viaduct was built. He feels a new bridge honoring Harriet Tubman would reconcile the wrongs of the past, including city neighborhoods that were taken by eminent domain.

“I feel that the Harriet Tubman Memorial Freedom Bridge is a comprehensive solution that responds to the concerns of everyone in our community, including local businesses.  I will keep thousands of cars off our urban neighborhood streets.  It will reduce air pollution among one of the most vulnerable populations in our city.”

The Tubman Family made the trip from Auburn to show their support. Family Matriarch Pauline Copes Johnson just turned 94 years-old this week. She thinks a bridge named after her Aunt Harriet would be an honor. Daughter Deidre Johnson Stanford shared the thoughts of the direct descendant.

“Mother is very happy about the fact that she named it and the rest of the family is behind her and all this endeavor,”  said Johnson Stanford.

Harriet Tubman Memorial Freedom Bridge press event.jpg
Provided Photo - Charles Garland
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Descendants of Harriet Tubman say they support the bridge that would bear her name.

Members of the Tubman family have signed a letter to State and Federal representatives expressing they are in favor of the idea to build the Harriet Tubman Memorial Freedom Bridge.

The current public comment period to the State D-O-T I-81 proposal is underway. The groups’ bridge idea goes against the community grid option, favored by Department of Transportation and many city officials. However, organizer Garland says they will continue to find a way through challenges like Tubman always did. He adds they would also be open to a bridge with a grid option.

John Smith has been waking up WAER listeners for a long time as our Local Co-Host of Morning Edition with timely news and information, working alongside student Sportscasters from the Newhouse School.