Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Syracuse receives $500,000 to reconnect neighborhoods split by I-81 viaduct

Two elevated highways crisscross each other in a downtown area.
John Smith
Elevated portions of Interstate 81 cross over a city street and vacant lot in downtown Syracuse, Jun. 25, 2015.

The City of Syracuse has been awarded $500,000 in federal grant funds to reconnect neighborhoods divided by the Interstate 81 highway.

In a joint news release, New York's U.S. Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand said Syracuse is one of the first cities in the country to utilize the dollars from the Infrastructure Act’s “Reconnecting Communities” program, which intends to support communities that have been bisected by freeways. The city's 15th Ward, predominately an African American neighborhood, wasdivided by the the highway when construction began in the 1960s.

Schumer said the funding will help combat segregation caused by the highway and support local leaders as they assess how to create safe and protected transportation routes for residents in Syracuse's Southside, which includes the 15th Ward.

"This funding allows the opportunity to right these wrongs and study how best to reconnect this community to new opportunities such as safe and protected pedestrian, bicycle, public transportation and bus rapid transit pathways," Schumer said.

The grant is one of the first in the new Bipartisan Infrastructure and Jobs Law, which both Democratic senators supported. Gillbrand said the funding aims to counter the lasting impact the 81 viaduct has left on the city.

“This $500,000 will help Syracuse work toward reversing decades of disinvestment and exclusionary federal policies, revitalize the area surrounding I-81, and connect workers to good-paying jobs," Gillibrand said.

The grant serves as a help towards constructing I-81 into the Syracuse community grid, a street-level boulevard to reconnect the city's core. Set to be completed by 2028 and cost $2.25 billion, the I-81 viaduct would be replaced by a street level grid, including spaces for communities, businesses, and high speed traffic.

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
Jude is an undergraduate student who is undecided within the Newhouse and Maxwell Schools at Syracuse University, expected to graduate in May of 2026. As a field researcher, he helps cover community meetings and events for WAER. He is a proud New Jerseyan and enjoys spending quality time with his family, friends, and dog.