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NYSDOT: Final Options on the Table for Replacing I-81 in Syracuse

Scott Willis

The New York State Department of Transportation released its list of three final options that the state will consider for the I-81 Viaduct thru Syracuse, and a tunnel is one of them.
   The others in the 261 page "scoping report" include a community grid (boulevard) alternative, and three versions of a new viaduct.

Mayor Stephanie Miner says in a statement,  “The Interstate 81 project is a complex, once-in-a-generation opportunity that requires us to make a carefully considered, data-oriented decision. This decision should not be made simply on what moves cars as quickly as possible. We should focus on ensuring our decision advances the City of Syracuse as an economically vibrant, connected, and livable City by finding ways to utilize the existing transportation network beyond the viaduct corridor, enhancing connectivity between the University Hill, Southside, and Downtown neighborhoods, and being sensitive to community impacts—particularly to those living and working around the viaduct. Any alternative should encourage pedestrian, bicycle, and mass transit travel, be financially responsible, and protect the historic buildings in whose shadow the highway stands."

The scoping report is the second stage in the creation of the Environmental Impact Statement that is required by New York State. As the decision making continues, public input and review are highly encouraged by the city and state. Representative John Katko says, "Central New York deserves to have a full and robust community dialogue on this important project, and I’m happy to see that today’s report includes a variety of reasonable alternatives."

The report is available to anyone. I-81 Viaduct Project director Mark Frechette says, "The report includes an overview of the project; its purpose, need, and objectives; alternatives being advanced for further evaluation and development, as well as those that were considered and dismissed; a framework for the environmental studies; information on agency and public involvement; a summary of public comments and responses to these comments; and several appendices."

The full report can be viewed at
The next step in the process is will be a Draft Environmental Impact Statement that will directly study the potential environmental and community effects of three main options.  The DOT will release a final preferred option in 2017.

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at