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I-81’s future is in your hands

Syracusans offer input at public forum

An aerial view of I-81. The city is in the process of gathering public input on the future of the interstate that divides the city.

An aerial view of I-81. The city is in the process of gathering public input on the future of the interstate that divides the city. Provided

— Changes made to the road must adhere to the Federal Highway Administration rules and regulations.

So far, $6.5 million is set aside by the NYSDOT, while SMTC has $1 million for the project, D’Agostino said.

The plan now is to begin to develop more ideas for each of the five master strategies. Each will undergo a thorough analysis: it will consider the potential impact on costs, traffic, land use, pedestrians, transit, the environment and future economic development.

“This is a very hefty menu of work to get done,” Bill Engloff, NYSDOT’s project manager, said. “Our team expects that examining seven or more factors for up to a dozen options will require at least six months or more. We want people to understand what’s required for a project like this so they don’t become impatient.”

Engloff went into further detail. “Federal and state environmental laws and regulations require that all reasonable options be evaluated for their impacts. We know that a ‘no-build’ scenario is not a realistic option given the condition of the viaduct. In the end, we are required to fully evaluate it in order to establish it as the baseline.”

D’Agostino added: “We know that many people wonder, ‘Why is this taking so long?’ The short answer is: it’s an interstate highway and ultimately federal law dictates the process.”

He went on to say that a no-build scenario would include routine maintenance of the existing structure, and wouldn’t really address any long-term issues.

The viaduct portion of the road runs along the eastern edge of downtown, and it’s nearing the end of its designed service life. It will require either significant repair, reconstruction or a full replacement. The SMTC says this is a big community concern.

“Fortunately, we have a pretty good idea of what the community wants and what its priorities are,” Meghan Vitale, SMTC principal transportation planner, said.

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