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State DOT forced to clarify environmental information on I-81 viaduct replacement project

The I-81 is seen from an overhead view.
file photo
The I-81 viaduct looking south.

A state supreme court judge has issued a ruling on a case that challenged the state DOT’s $2.2 billion plan to replace the I-81 viaduct in Syracuse with a community grid. The state is being ordered to clarify and update information in its environmental impact statement, or EIS.  

Judge Gerard Neri writes there are “glaring omissions” and even contradictions in the DOT’s EIS concerning air quality monitoring, stormwater management, and anticipated population and traffic growth resulting from the Micron project. His 24-page ruling comes just over a month after he heard oral arguments from the group Renew 81 For All claiming the DOT used old or inaccurate data for traffic and environmental impacts.

Neri agreed in part, saying the state should submit a supplemental EIS that includes future traffic projections to reflect Micron’s potential impact. Lawyers for the DOT argued in court that any impacts remain nebulous and inadequate to speculate on population and traffic conditions.

Neri is also ordering the state DOT to add an air quality monitor on present I-481 where most former I-81 traffic would be diverted if the viaduct was removed. The state originally planned to review air quality at four sites, all if them within city limits.

Neri also wants a finalized plan to address stormwater runoff with a community grid, not the tentative one mentioned in court.

In the end, Neri said the state DOT can proceed with construction plans, but can’t remove the viaduct until it submits the required information. DOT officials have said demolition won’t come until the final phases of the project anyway. That’s still years away.

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