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NYS DOT opens two I-81 community outreach centers

Three people talk in a doorway with a sign behind them that says I-81 Viaduct Project Outreach Center.
Scott Willis
Sam Gordon, Aggie Lane, and Deka Dancil chat at the outreach center at Tucker Missionary Baptist Church Aug. 16, 2023.

The state department of transportation is opening two community outreach centers in Syracuse for anyone who might have questions about the I-81 viaduct replacement project. Officials held a ceremonial groundbreaking last month, and work is underway on the northern and southern interchanges with I-481. DOT Regional Director David Smith says the centers build on the hundreds of community meetings - large and small - over the past several years.

“It's going to enable us to continue to engage with the community and enable the community to come in share any concerns that they have with us and we can talk about those concerns," Smith said. "So we're not going away because there's a shovel in the ground. We're actually in the community more so than we have been.”

Smith says they received about 8,000 comments after they released the draft environmental impact statement in 2021, and are ready for more feedback.

One of the centers is located at Tucker Missionary Baptist Church on Oakwood Avenue, which is adjacent to the highway. It’s also where Smith and other stakeholders gathered Wednesday for a ribbon cutting. President of the Urban Jobs Task force Deka Dancil says the centers will be a crucial component to fulfilling local hire goals for the project.

“It gives direct access to the information needed to get hired onto the project to get training to be on the jobs of the project, or even to receive a contract on the project.”

Dancil says for the past nine months, the task force has been collecting information from residents who are interested in jobs.

“We have several hundred people in that database now," Dancil said. "But I think that's also proven through the Syracuse Build program, which is targeted for local hire and was kind of created and prepped for 81 and beyond, they always get way more applicants than they can take for their cohorts, for the training.”

Dancil says they get calls all the time from people interested not only in the jobs, but also the health and environmental impacts of the project.

The outreach centers are located at the following locations and will have the following hours, beginning Thursday, Aug. 17:

  • Tucker Missionary Baptist Church, 515 Oakwood Avenue, Syracuse. Open Tuesday and Thursday from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
  • The Hills Building (first floor), 217 Montgomery Street, Syracuse. Open Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
    Two desks with chairs behind them, and two people looking at design materials on easels.
    Scott Willis
    WAER News
    Sen. Rachel May, left, and Assemblymember Al Stirpe look at I-81 project design materials at the Tucker Missionary Baptist Church outreach center Aug. 16, 2023.
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