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Save 81 releases 2016 document on replacement options for I-81 in Syracuse

Ellen Abbott
A 12,000 page Environmental Impact statement from the state DOT from 2016

As central New York continues to wait for a state study on the future of Interstate 81 in downtown Syracuse, a group that wants to keep a high speed Interstate running through the city is sharing some three-year old data it says supports it’s view.

Save 81 says a 2016 Draft Environmental Impact Statement from the State Department of Transportation shows that a community grid would create interminable delays and gridlock traffic conditions in the city of Syracuse. Town of Clay Supervisor Damian Ulatowski says this adds heft to Save 81’s contentions that the grid, which would route high-speed traffic around the city via Interstate 481, isn’t the best option for replacing a crumbing interstate viaduct.

"Let’s not put all our eggs behind an option that may not be in the best interest for any of us, and create a larger problem by creating a boulevard through the heart of the city and 14 intersections," said Ulatowski.

The debate over what to do with the viaduct that carries 81 through Syracuse has split the community. Many in the city prefer the community grid, but others in the suburbs don't want the extra traffic routed around the city. The state will make the final decision about what to do, and for the last few years has been studying three options to replace the crumbling viaduct:  a community grid, a mile-long tunnel though the city or reconstruction of the viaduct.  

Save 81’s Greg Lancette says this 12,000 page document, not released to them by the state, but from the Army Corps of Engineers in 2017, can bring the community together.

"Maybe this can help either stop the erosion or distancing, or start reversing it," said Lancette.

But supporters of the grid, like Barry Lentz of the Moving People Transportation Coalition, are suspicious of the document. He doesn’t don’t think a three-year old study that compares traffic waits at intersections among other things, will change anyone’s mind.

"I don’t know the value of this data, which we don’t know where it came from, what the relationship is between this data and the actual DEIS data. So we’re actually still in a period of waiting.”

Lentz said that because the document was never released by the state, it doesn't bring anything to the table.

This doesn’t in any way, shape or form illuminate the public, or inform the public, until we hear from DOT," he said.

The Cuomo Administration has said the Department of Transportation report would be released early this year.

2016 deis Summary by WRVO News on Scribd

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.