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NYS calls community grid 'preferred alternative' to replace I-81 in Syracuse

Ryan Delaney
WRVO News File Photo

The New York State Department of Transportation released a long awaited report Monday on the potential options to replace the I-81 viaduct in downtown Syracuse. The report called the community grid option, "the preferred alternative."

"Based on a balanced consideration of the need for safe and efficient transportation; the social, economic, and environmental effects of the project alternatives; and national, state, and local environmental protection goals, the Community Grid Alternative would be selected as the preferred alternative," the report said.

The full document is several thousand pages, and goes over all of the options that were evaluated for the elevated portion of the highway, which has reached the end of its useful lifespan. You can read the summary document below, and read the entire report here

According to the report, the community grid would cost $1.9 billion and take about five years to complete. A tunnel option was declared "unreasonable" in the report, because while technically feasible, it would cost $4.9 billion and take 11 years to contstruct. 

"After extensive public outreach and careful consideration, we believe that the Community Grid best meets the project’s objectives," New York State Department of Transportation Region 3 Director David Smith said in a statement.

Reaction to the report has been mixed. Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh, who favored the community grid, was pleased.

“I am very glad that the DEIS is out, and I’m pleased that it identifies the Community Grid as the preferred alternative," Walsh said in a statement. "The DEIS is the most comprehensive source for the facts and data our community needs to evaluate the project. My team and I will be closely reviewing the report in the days and weeks ahead, and the city will participate actively in the public engagement process to ensure that the needs and concerns of the people of the City of Syracuse and the entire region are considered by DOT. The more people engage, the better the outcome will be."

State Sen. Rachel May (D-Syracuse) said the state chose the grid "because it will enhance efficient transportation while causing the least disruption to the urban fabric."

Cicero Town Supervisor Mark Vanesky preferred a so-called "hybrid option,' where a tunnel would be built under the city with a community grid on top. He said an in interview Monday that he believed the community grid was the state's preferred alternative all along.

"I think it's unfortunate because two-thirds of the people who live in Onondaga County live in the suburbs. And almost every single poll that has been done since 2013 says that 66% of central New York residents want to keep route 81's current route," said Vanesky.

The release of the DEIS is not the end of the process. Several public hearings will be held over the next several months to gather community input. A final environmental review will then be completed before a final decision on the project is announced. 

I-81 DEIS Summary_04-19-2019 by WRVO News on Scribd

Jason has served as WRVO's news director in some capacity since August 2017. As news director, Jason produces hourly newscasts, and helps direct local news coverage and special programming. Before that, Jason hosted Morning Edition on WRVO from 2009-2019. Jason came to WRVO in January of 2008 as a producer/reporter. Before that, he spent two years as an anchor/reporter at WSYR Radio in Syracuse.