NYS DOT report favors ‘Community Grid’ for I-81 replacement

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New York State Department of Transportation has released its Draft Environmental Impact Statement report for their favored Interstate 81 replacement option. 

The preferred option is the community grid, which would remove the entire viaduct and route through traffic onto Route 481. 

“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. FHWA and NYSDOT will consider all comments received on this
DDR/DEIS,” the DOT says. 

You can go through the report here.

The project would take about five years to complete and would cost $1.9 billion– $700 million more than initially planned. 

On Monday, SUNY ESF announced that they sat down with the State DOT for a briefing on I-81. 

In a statement, ESF said: 

The state team shared a high-level view of the data analysis involving the Community Grid option. The plan is impressive. We came away feeling quite positive about how the plan deals with traffic and environmental concerns. Based on a data-driven approach, this Community Grid plan will better distribute ingress and egress to and from the city and decompress currently failing intersections. Furthermore, it is much more pedestrian and bicycle friendly and is a move in the right direction to begin to address social justice issues related to the bisection of the historic 15th Ward. There is no question this is the choice that is best for Syracuse and the region.

SUNY ESF, as well as Upstate University Hospital and Syracuse University, have endorsed the community grid option.

Syracuse University Chancellor Kent Syverud said:

“It is my view that the Community Grid option most strongly aligns with the attributes and outcomes that Syracuse University previously endorsed as central to any I-81 replacement option. These critical attributes include multiple access points to the highway and to University Hill; a robust connection between University Hill and downtown; enhanced public transportation and public space options; environmental and financial sustainability; and minimal disruption to housing, businesses and jobs, both during and after construction. The Community Grid is best positioned to drive meaningful transformation across our community, and in the heart of our City.”

Upstate interim president Mantosh Dewan said: 

The Community Grid provides an opportunity to alleviate traffic congestion that already exists around our campus. We have been assured that new traffic patterns will allow for more options on and off University Hill. Our highest priority is to ensure that our patients and all of us who work and study at Upstate will be able to get here quickly and safely. We are encouraged to learn that commuting time to and from Upstate, including for emergency vehicles, will be the same or a bit shorter.

The report is not a finalized concept.

Before any action is taken, there will be several briefings with lawmakers and a public commentary period. 

State Senator Bob Antonacci confirmed that a state delegation meeting was held on Monday.

Those present were briefed by the DOT, but they did not see the full report.

Antonacci did not specify what the preferred option was. He says this is the beginning of a long process and that “cranes will not be up tomorrow.” 

This is a developing story.

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