Local officials happy Biden's infrastructure plan mentions I-81 project

Apr 2, 2021

When the Biden administration unveiled a $2 trillion jobs and infrastructure plan this week, it included a mention of the I-81 project in Syracuse, and local officials hope that means support for the long-awaited project.

Central New York Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) says he talks up the $2 billion I-81 project every time he runs into an administration official. So he knows the plan, that is dependent on federal funds, is on their radar.

“We’re happy they’re recognizing it and I’m confident we’re going to get the funding,” Katko said.

Beyond paying for the tear down of the aging viaduct that split downtown Syracuse in half and replacing it with a community grid model, officials are also happy Biden is committing $20 billion to reconnect neighborhoods cut off by the transportation construction template of the 1950s and 60s. Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh said the story of how building a highway destroyed a predominantly black neighborhood is one that needs to be heard.

"That all rings true with our experience in Syracuse,” Walsh said. “And so we are uniquely positioned to be a model for how to right some of those wrongs."

Central New York State Sen. Rachel May said another important issue that needs to be considered for the project is funneling the construction jobs to individuals in the neighborhood that suffered the most from the building of 81.

“Making sure the jobs we are creating with this project go to local people. In particular, people in that specific area that has been most affected by the building originally and the presence of the highway,” May said.

Construction on the I-81 is expected to begin in 2022.