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Syracuse Council wants state DOT to review common features of I-81 project

Tom Magnarelli
This portion of I-81, north of the viaduct, would be expanded from six lanes to eight lanes as part of the state DOT's plans.

The Interstate-81 project to replace the current viaduct in downtown Syracuse is down to two options. But regardless of whether a community grid or new viaduct is built, common features are proposed for another section of I-81 north of the viaduct. Those features include a new I-81 and I-690 interchange known as flyovers. It will also expand lanes and reconstruct several bridges.

The Syracuse Common Council is asking the New York State Department of Transportation for more alternatives to the common features. Councilor Joe Nicoletti said there should also be a no-build option.

“It has been said by many of the critics of this, that we’re ripping down I-81 and now we’re rebuilding that divider again on another part of the city,” Nicoletti said.

Councilor Joe Carni said the common features threatens the revitalization of the city's north side.

"They haven't presented us with an option that doesn't have flyovers, moving bridges that will truly damage and maybe destroy everything that we've done on the north side to help make it better," Carni said. "I truly hope that the DOT comes back, looks at this and at least presents us with options without those."

Some businesses and organizations in the area are also objecting to the common features. Stakeholders said more than a hundred million dollars of investment in the area is being threatened. The state DOT will release an environmental impact statement on the I-81 project beginning next year.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.