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Schumer: Final approval on I-81 project coming 'within weeks'

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer speaks about the Interstate 81 project on Monday, March 21. 2022
Ellen Abbott
U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer speaks about the Interstate 81 project on Monday, March 21. 2022

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said Monday that federal approval of a final draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the Interstate 81 project is imminent.

Cars and trucks whizzed by on the 81 overpass behind him as Schumer told reporters in Forman Park the project to tear down the crumbling viaduct and replace it with a Community Grid is now on the “fast-track.”

“This EIS, which is government-speak for government approval is going to happen in weeks,” Schumer said, noting he spoke with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg just days earlier about the project.

"I just wanted to make sure everything was on track and get a timeline. And I was gratified that the timeline with the EIS, which is the last major hurdle, is happening in the next several weeks to be approved,” Schumer said. “Sometimes it takes years for these EIS’s to be approved. And that’s the last gate that needs to be opened."

After the EIS is approved, there will be a 30-day public comment period before a Record of Decision is issued.

“And that is the final green light for the project and then the money flows, and shovels go into the ground,” Schumer said. “This is gonna happen, very very soon.”

Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh said knowing Schumer is pushing for this to happen as soon as possible is important.

"I’ve learned to not take anything for granted with this project,” said Walsh. “Just when we think we’re almost there, something else comes up. So to have the Senate Majority Leader focused on this project, talking about it in Washington, and pushing it forward, is welcome and frankly I think is needed."

The project is expected to cost $2.25 billion dollars and take as many as six years to complete. Ground is expected to be broken before the end of this year.

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.