Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh will be meeting with the staff of new Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg this week to talk about the Interstate 81 project.
During a briefing Friday, Walsh said the community is at a critical juncture when it comes to the project that will tear down the downtown interstate viaduct. A state Draft Environmental Impact Statement identified the community grid option as its preferred alternative to replacing the viaduct. It’s now in the hands of the Department of Transportation so Walsh says the time is right to talk to the feds.
“We need to make sure that at the highest level the federal government understands what’s at stake with 81, and I specifically want them to understand that the City of Syracuse, and as mayor, that I am very supportive of the community grid as the preferred alternative,” Walsh said.
The federal government will pay most of the cost of the almost $2 billion project. But Walsh said that’s not all Washington brings to the table.
“The federal government, through rules and regulations, can be a significant partner in allowing for flexibility to ensure that we maximize the number of local people as well as disadvantaged businesses, minority, women owned businesses. We want everyone to benefit from this project,” he said.
Central New York Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) have also sent letters to Secretary Buttigieg, asking for an immediate update on the consideration of the DEIS. They also invited him to tour the current site of the viaduct.