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Public opinion sought on 'Elevating Erie' entries

Ellen Abbott
DeWitt town planner Samuel Gordon and Syracuse planner Owen Kerney look at Elevating Erie interactive survey.

An elevated museum of sorts, bike trails, a blooming bridge, an outdoor ice skating park. Those are all some of the ideas that have been submitted to the “Elevating Erie” competition, focused on revamping Erie Boulevard East in Onondaga County. Now it’s time for the public to weigh in on potential projects that could turn six drab lanes of traffic into an historic and recreational destination.

Traffic is the defining element of Erie Boulevard East right now, from the town of DeWitt into the city of Syracuse. That could all change as the Elevating Erie project looks to revitalize a four-mile stretch of what used to be the Erie Canal.

"So what we think of today as six lanes of fury -- three in either direction -- with wide open intersections with cross streets, very little pedestrian accommodation, no bicycle accommodation, very little landscaping or trees along this corridor. Those are the things we’re looking to change,” said DeWitt town planner Samuel Gordon.

Gordon says over the last six months, design teams from around the world submitted 64 ideas that would reimagine Erie Boulevard East, as well as link portions of the canal system that run through central New York. 

The most intriguing ones are on display for the next three months in an interactive exhibit at the Erie Canal Museum in Syracuse. One that struck Syracuse planner Owen Kerney involves bringing the canal back, in a way, to a portion of Erie Boulevard.

"People presented ways to reestablish that linear canal waterway through part of the canal corridor. And I thought, wow, that’s a big idea that’s a bold idea, that’s probably an expensive idea," said Kerney.

One of the other big ideas that intrigues Gordon would connect portions of the canal that are separated by Interstate 481 in DeWitt by creating a kind of path underneath the highway.

"This could serve a storm water function for that area, as well as reestablish the historical connections of the canal in that area,” said Gordon.

Both planners also say there are plenty of small ideas embedded in the big ones -- curb cuts and plantings that could be established easily and inexpensively.

At this point, the group’s goal is to get a sense of what the public wants this corridor to look like. So they’re encouraging people to visit the exhibit, or go online to elevatingerie.com, look at the ideas, then fill out a survey.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.