Syracuse residents rallied today to change the Interstate-81 overpass to a road system known as a “community grid”. They say that the I-81 overpass fragments and segregates the city. Robert Doucette is a member of “ReThink 81”, an organization pushing for the community grid. He says grid proponents are eager to see the results of a city-sponsored study on the overpass.
“We’re fighting for the same cause. We’ve been doing it separately, but I think people realize that this is our common fight and our common goal to get that thing down and the grid built. It’s one of the greatest secrets of the 21st century, when they’re going to release this study. I don’t know. It was supposed to be released last month, everyone is waiting for it.”
Grid opponents favor a tunnel or large boulevard and say that a community grid would not be able to handle the traffic. But Doucette disagrees.
“I don’t know what people think happened to those cars. But they drive off of 81 and hey go to university, they go to the hospital, and they go to other businesses. They’re here today. 88 % to 90% of the traffic using 81 is used for local purposes, not for Interstate purposes.”
Advocates for the grid fear that other options like a tunnel beneath the city will take many years to complete, further cutting off poorer neighborhoods. Rally attendee Rachel May says she wants the city to be more accessible to foot traffic.
“It rewrote the fabric of the city in way that was designed just for cars. I believe that if you design a city for cars, you get cars; if you design a city for people, you get people. And we are more interested in having people in Syracuse than having cars.”
City officials have yet to release the study about traffic in the area and the impacts of the various alternatives going forward.