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Who Will Work on the I-81 Project? One Group Pushes for City Residents to Get Larger Share of Jobs

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A community group is trying to prepare city residents for the thousands of jobs the Interstate 81 construction project will bring.  The Urban Jobs Task Force is holding a community engagement forum Monday evening.  

Deka Dancil says the project won’t be a job changer for Syracuse unless significant changes are made…

"Increase funding for workforce development programs so people in the city are able to be trained beforehand so they're able to work on the project.  And, somehow, whatever negotiation takes place with the trade unions or whatever private company is going to do the work on I-81, make sure in some way that local people are able to participate."

The forum aims to provide more opportunities for local workers.  Dancil says the Racial Equity Impact Statement historically shows the construction trade industry mainly consists of white, suburban residents. Dancil says multiple factors make it difficult for low-income city residents to land good-paying construction jobs.


"So, if you have to buy work boots and a tool belt, and it costs $200 to start out, and you're living in poverty and have no money, how can you afford to do that?  Then if the program is running 7 to 3 Monday through Friday, and  you're already living in poverty, working one or two other jobs, and still being poor, that gets hard to keep up with."

Dancil says transportation and childcare are other major barriers, not to mention very low federal minority hiring mandates, which are based on 1970 census data. 

"That needs to be updated, and that's a severe hindrance to what we're trying to do.  If those goals could be raised, we might not need to be doing all of this in the first place."

The community engagement forum will be held Monday from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Tucker Missionary Baptist Church on Oakwood Avenue. 

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