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Downtown Syracuse highways to be worked on before major I-81 viaduct project

Ryan Delaney
WRVO News File Photo

As central New York waits for a decision on the future of the Interstate 81 viaduct through Syracuse, motorists will see road work on the current road in coming months. I-81 project director Mark Frechette calls it band-aiding -- maintenance work to be done this year on a stretch of I-81 that needs to be replaced.

"When you look at the interchange, just between 81 and 690, it has over a million square feet of deck area. So you don’t know where you’ll get a hole, or a beam will deteriorate, or an accident will knock down signage or a guard rail,” said Frechette.

Frechette says the New York State Department of Transportation will be very aggressive fixing these kind of issues this summer. And while the community waits for the I-81 decision expected early next year, one project that is part of the original I-81 viaduct footprint will be getting some attention sooner rather than later. DOT Commissioner Matt Driscoll says a stretch of interstate 690 from Teall Avenue to Beech Street will be repaired ahead of the viaduct project, because it is too deteriorated to wait on.

"It’s actually a bridge. Most people don’t know that. It’s just over three football fields long. That’s going to be starting in 2017.”

Driscoll expects to decide early in 2017 which of four options will replace the aging interstate. And there’s no timetable yet on when construction on that will start.

But this week, there are three meetings scheduled that will outline the process of acquiring properties that could be impacted by construction. Decisions about potential property acquisitions aren’t expected for another two years, so these are informational sessions. Frechette says there will also be meetings later in the month looking at so-called common projects that will take place regardless of final decision about 81’s future.

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.