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Officials say I81 replacement project groundbreaking in Syracuse signals the project is on

John Smith / WAER News
Federal State and local officials symbolically break ground scooping up make-shift soil with shovels on a city street that borders the Martin Luther King School and I81 overpass.

The long-awaited groundbreaking to replace the I-81 viaduct in Syracuse happened today on the South Side with federal, state and local officials present. The event was held at the Martin Luther King School which stands very close to the viaduct. Both residents and officials agreed the plans to tear down the viaduct and develop a community grid will allow first and foremost to healing the black community.

“…People were kicked out of their homes, they bulldozed businesses, they erased they story for so many people’s lives.”

Governor Kathy Hochul went on to describe how the pain is still palpable.

“The viaduct still blocks the sun. The highway still spews emissions into homes and communities. The sound of screeching cars are still in your ear and children in this school are breathing fumes as they go outside and play.”

She described how this transportation project will be handled with care and receptiveness with a Community Engagement Center.

“… because people are going to have a lot of questions. We want to place one you come. Again, this is how we prioritize the people over the projects. You come here, any questions or concerns you have and we’ll make sure you’re taken care of.”

The $2.5 billion dollar project also requires local jobs will be created for residents who have taken advantage of free job training. There will also be 26,000 union jobs for the project. Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer referenced road work that’s already being performed outside of the city.

“And now that the shovels are hitting the ground under the Governor’s leadership; those federal dollars can begin to flow.”

However, today’s groundbreaking outside the Martin Luther King, Jr. school was largely symbolic as the public won’t see any substantial transformation for at least a couple years. However, the Governor says the viaduct will be gone in 5 years.

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.