Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner has released her first public opinion about the future of I-81 thorough he city…but stops short of endorsing any specific replacement plan.
On the last day of the public comment period, Miner sent a letter to New York State Department of Transportation Commissioner Joan McDonald saying she supports the state’s decision to eliminate a stacked viaduct, tunnel, depressed highway, and rehabilitation as alternatives as options. But Miner doesn’t say what should replace the aging, obsolete viaduct.
She does say strong consideration should be given to the livability and economic vitality of the area. Miner also says connectivity between university hill and downtown should also be a factor, as well as ensuring that infrastructure for cars doesn’t act as a barrier to other modes of transportation.
DETAILS FROM MINER'S WRITTEN COMMENTS TO NYSDOT COMMISSIONER JOAN MCDONALD
- Enhancing Livability and Economic Vitality Should be Primary Focus of the Process: I want to reinforce certain aspects of the “Purpose and Need” outlined in the Draft Scoping Report. While I understand NYSDOT’s desire to adresss the transportation engineering-related concerns associated with, “Nonstandard and Nonconforming Design Features,” I want to stress our community’s interest in pursuing, “transportation solutions that enhance the livability, visual quality, sustainability, and economic vitality of Greater Syracuse.” I believe this stated goal should be the primary criterion by which we judge our options for this project.
- Review Syracuse Comprehensive Plan’s Directives: I urge NYSDOT to carefully review the formally adopted City of Syracuse Comprehensive Plan: 2040 and its components, and plan this project accordingly. Goals of particular interest include:
- Ensure that infrastructure for automobiles does not act as a barrier to other modes of travel.
- Explore the feasibility of alternative sustainable modes of mass transit.
- Enhance gateways and way-finding for visitors to the city.
- Promote the development of trails and corridors that reflect local, regional, state, and national history.
- Endorse NYSDOT’s Recommendation to Terminate Study of Certain Proposed Alternatives: I endorse NYSDOT’s recommendation not to advance Rehabilitation, Stacked Viaduct, Tunnel, Depressed Highway, and Other alternatives to the draft EIS stage of this project. Based on the information presented by NYSDOT during the Scoping Phase of this project, it is clear these alternatives do not align with the stated goals of the City of Syracuse or the Purpose and Need articulated by NYSDOT. This fact has been reinforced by feedback I have received from citizens and community stakeholders. These alternatives do not advance Syracuse as a safer, better connected, and more beautiful, welcoming, economically vibrant, environmentally sensitive, socially just and livable place, and therefore should be discarded.
FURTHER CONSIDERATIONS MAYOR MINER WOULD LIKE TO IMPACT FINAL DECISION
- This project must be sensitive to community impacts. The urban renewal era of the mid-Twentieth Century was one of communities ignored and opportunities missed. Moving forward, this process must be one of broad community inclusion. Analysis of alternatives should be mindful of neighborhood impacts, social justice issues, economic opportunity, environmental justice considerations and other associated concerns. Property takings and building demolitions that fracture neighborhoods and annihilate historic character and local heritage are unacceptable. This project must be about rebuilding communities and uniting neighborhoods.
- The next phase of the project should include a thorough examination of all modes of travel that are accommodating to all users. This process should be about people – not just about moving cars. New and enhanced transit options should also be contemplated as part of alternatives analysis.
- Short commute times should not be a prime indicator of success in alternatives analysis. Getting to and from the urban core in a timely fashion is but one of many measures of successful design. We should be mindful that design should influence demand, not just react to demand projections.
- Our downtown is in the midst of a major civic and economic renaissance. The I-81 Viaduct project is not just an opportunity for transportation solutions; it is an opportunity to build on our recent economic success. This project should focus on solutions that create development opportunities, promote urban planning best practices, and serve and connect the economic engines of our urban core neighborhoods.