I-81 project leader tours construction area with Syracuse residents
The state Department of Transportation may have released the final plan for the massive revitalization of Interstate 81, but officials are still taking feedback from the Syracuse community, especially those who will be most affected by the changes.
The DOT already changed the location of a controversial roundabout after concerns from local residents. But at the first of two public meetings, locals on Saturday walked beneath the existing highway with project director Mark Frechette to voice remaining concerns.
South side resident Anthony Bibbs said he's worried that the removal of the viaduct, much like its construction, will disproportionately affect minority neighborhoods.
“When they tear that down, all that dust—I don’t know how they’re going to stop all that dust from flooding this area. And the areas that it’s flooding are mainly Black, brown and Latino," Bibbs said.
A common complaint was a lack of community involvement in the project. Nyatwah Bullock, who attended the Saturday meeting, wanted there to still be a strong dialogue between the project leaders and the community.
"We shouldn’t have people who never lived in these communities come out and tell us 'This is what’s going to happen, this is how it’s going to look, and you should just accept it because this is what we think is better.' The community knows what works for them," Bullock said.
However, Frechette said the DOT has done its part to involve the community in the planning process.
“The fact that we’re here on a Saturday meeting with people shows we always want to hear from the community. When construction starts, we’ll still want to hear from the community," Frechette said.
He said he's looking ahead to the next phase—hiring contractors and getting shovels in the ground.