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Updated I-81 plans will be released by feds mid-July; final decision will be made early 2022

Ryan Delaney
WRVO News File Photo

The updated draft environmental impact statement for the Interstate-81 project in Syracuse will be released in mid-July. That’s according to the office of central New York Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus), which said that Katko spoke with the acting head of the Federal Highway Administration.

The state Department of Transportation submitted its draft report for FHA to review a year ago. In it, the DOT selected a street-level community grid as its preferred option to replace a 1.4-mile elevated viaduct downtown.  

A public comment period will begin after the new plan is released next month and a public hearing will be held in August to gather feedback. A record of the decision will be made early next year. Katko plans to hold a telephone town hall to bring attention to the project and encourage the public to participate in the comment period. Those comments will be entered into the record and will be addressed by DOT and FHA in the final environmental impact statement.

Katko has never taken a position on what option he thinks should replace the viaduct, saying he will work to provide federal support for the plan the community decides on. But the community has been split. City residents tend to favor the community grid, while many suburban residents want to keep high-speed access through downtown. The community grid would reroute I-81 in Syracuse to I-481, which goes around the city.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.