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Changes coming to make West Street more pedestrian friendly

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West Street in Syracuse is six lanes wide in some parts and difficult to cross on foot.

Changes are coming to Syracuse’s West Street artery to make the roadway more pedestrian friendly and less of a barrier for the Near Westside neighborhood.

West Street was built in the middle of the last century, as Interstate 81 was paving through the city, as a way to move cars more easily. It’s six lanes wide and not pedestrian friendly, but many west side residents have to cross the street to get downtown or to the grocery store.

The Near Westside Initiative, a community advocacy group has been working with the state transportation department on a redesign.

People have to dangerously run across the street now, says Near Westside Initiative community organizer Taino Palermo, and there’s so few places to cross that fences have been knocked down in sections.

"It’s a matter of safety, but it’s aesthetically not pleasing," Palermo said. "And it’s definitely not walker friendly or child friendly."

He says there aren't a lot of cars on the Near Westside, and the busy street cuts the neighborhood off from downtown.

"We have people coming in and out of our neighborhood constantly and it’s just a huge issue to cross that street with children, with groceries," Palermo said.

Improvements to West Street will include features to slow traffic down, bike lanes, crosswalks, greenery and parking.

The Department of Transportation won’t talk specifics on the project yet, but the work will take about two years to be completed. West Street could see more traffic if Interstate 81 is removed from downtown Syracuse and diverted around the city.