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Mayor Walsh I-81 Plans Prioritize Neighborhoods Near Viaduct, Workforce Development

Daniel Lobo
Wikimedia Commons

Mayor Ben Walsh wants the Interstate 81 project to prioritize the communities adjacent to the viaduct and local workforce development. In a presentation during GreeningUSA’s Green Bag Lunch series Friday, Walsh said one of the key issues that will affect those living right next to the interstate is displacement.

But that’s not the only problem construction will bring to these communities.

“In addition to just being displace, air quality issues,” said Walsh. “Noise impact and how we can control and mitigate for that. Businesses that are directly impacted by this project. And again we understand that those businesses extend far beyond just the city of Syracuse.”

Walsh also emphasized his goal of making sure local people are hired for the I-81 construction jobs and beyond. To do this, the city is working on a program called ‘Syracuse Build.’ The Mayor describes it as a construction training and local hiring program.

“In order to make sure that we are taking the appropriate steps, one of the critical components is understanding what that workforce opportunity truly looks like,” said Walsh. “It’s easy to say, ‘Well we know we’re going to have construction jobs.’ But if you look beyond just the 81 project, it goes well beyond that.”

'Syracuse Build' will establish partnerships with organizations and companies who plan to continue development along the new infrastructure to increase the likelihood of job stability. Walsh is urging those who disagree on the City’s plans to engage and work on problems together, not just voice opposition.

“It’s important to be engaged,” said Walsh. “It’s okay to disagree with the DOT’s preferred alternative. But again, it’s important that everyone does it in a thoughtful and genuine way.”

The Community Grid was named the state’s preferred option in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement. However, a final decision from the New York DOT is still needed to finalize any decision.  

Katie Zilcosky is WAER’s All Things Considered host and features reporter. She also co-hosts WAER’s public affairs show Syracuse Speaks. As a reporter, she focuses on technology, economy, and identity.