Skip to comments.Local politicians use Interstate 81 rally to rail against New York state officials
Posted on 11/02/2017 6:46:11 AM PDT by Tolerance Sucks Rocks
A rally in support of a replacement option for a stretch of Interstate 81 served as a platform for city mayoral candidates and local politicians to rail against New York state officials Tuesday.
The rally, held in Hanover Square, was organized by ReThink81, a local group that supports a $1.3 billion replacement option for the viaduct, a raised section of I-81 that bisects Syracuse.
At one point during the event, Common Council President Van Robinson hefted a sledgehammer into the air, saying he wanted to tear down the highway: I hated it from the first time I came to this city and I hate it even more now.
It has completely destroyed our commercial fabric, Robinson said. We have people in Albany that say to us, My constituents dont want to see the viaduct taken down. I wonder, who are their constituents?
A handful of other common councilors mingled with the crowd, including Khalid Bey, Joe Nicoletti and Steven Thompson. Three of the four remaining mayoral candidates attended the event: Ben Walsh, an independent; Juanita Perez Williams, a Democrat; and Howie Hawkins, who is running on the Green Party ticket.
All three candidates, speaking before a crowd of more than 100 area residents, said they support the community grid concept. Laura Lavine, a Republican candidate who has remained skeptical of the grid, did not attend the event.
The viaduct, built during the 1950s and 1960s, is considered structurally deficient in some spots by the New York State Department of Transportation. Sections of the highway are caked with rust. I-81 cuts through a public housing complex, called Pioneer Homes, near Syracuse Universitys Brewster/Boland/Brockway Complex.
NYSDOT officials had narrowed options for replacing I-81 down to two from 16, but in January announced a consulting firm would be reviewing the feasibility of a contentious tunnel option that had previously been dismissed by the state.
A report on the tunnel option, which would redirect I-81 traffic under the city and cost an estimated $3.1 billion, was expected to be released sometime in late August or early September. That never happened.
In an email, a NYSDOT spokesman on Sept. 29 said the tunnel report was expected any day now.
The draft (Environmental Impact Study) will follow some time after that, said Gene Cilento, assistant to the NYSDOTs Region 3 director.
Hawkins, the Green Party candidate, on Tuesday said residents have to write to legislators in support of the community grid. The grid concept would destroy the viaduct, redirect highway traffic east around Syracuse on Interstate 481 and cost an estimated $1.3 billion.
The people of Syracuse are pretty clear (about) what they want. We want that viaduct down, Hawkins said, yelling into a microphone. But our state legislators, theyre not speaking up for us.
State Sen. John DeFrancisco (R-N.Y.), who represents portions of Syracuse, has condemned the community grid option. DeFrancisco, along with other state representatives, has urged the NYSDOT to consider a hybrid of both the grid and tunnel options. DeFrancisco serves as the Senates deputy majority leader.
Another local grass-roots group, Save81, contracted a civil engineering firm to review the states community grid plan. In a report released this August, the firm said the grid would overburden city streets and increase congestion throughout Syracuse. DeFrancisco, at the time, held a press conference to announce results of the report.
Perez Williams on Tuesday was the only candidate who said they would try to work with state officials, particularly New York state Gov. Andrew Cuomo, to promote the community grid.
Walsh, who held a campaign rally near I-81 in late September, meanwhile, again called on the NYSDOT to release the tunnel report and project Environmental Impact Study. He also said the community grid option is the only option for replacing the highway.
We are continuing to debate whether or not we want to double down on 20th century infrastructure while were in a 21st century economy, Walsh said. It makes no sense to me.
I grew up by Syracuse.
Yes, the raised I-81 section is seriously ugly.
BUT...that’s how you get to places in Syracuse.
Eliminate it, and all that traffic has to exit on the perimeter and drive much longer/slower to get anywhere. That will destroy already suffering downtown activity. Further development will be far more induced to build outside the city.
Go underground, and costs incurred will devastate city finances - for a city already suffering long-term decline.
Just removing the viaduct will be horribly expensive.
Knowing how the city works, they’ll talk about it forever, cheaply patch the bridgework as long as they can, a section will collapse, removal will commence, the 481 bypass will be renamed New I-81, and downtown will degrade as all that traffic finds better places to go outside the city.
For context: a couple years ago a building partially collapsed onto I-81 within the city, shutting the freeway down for MONTHS. Seriously, they didn’t have the money/resources/motivation to just clean the bricks off the road and demolish the remaining near-collapse building. Removing the viaduct completely would take years.
Pointless anecdote: upon my achieving Eagle Scout, the 481 construction manager took me on a personal tour of the under-construction bypass before it was opened. That was neat for a 17-year-old.
privatize - then see how many actually would pay for the highway.
New York itself is a wreck and should be demolished.
I liked the boulevard option, personally. Replace the viaduct with a wide, ground level boulevard and designate that street plus the remaining freeway as Business I-81 (with the green and white shields instead of red, white and blue). Re-designate I-481 as I-81 and add another lane in each direction, since most of the through traffic will likely wish to go around.
Yes, this will be more expensive than the community grid, but so be it.
Probably the best option.
Tunnel is deranged.
I grew up there too and yes there is a serious problem with the raised section from Adams Street to I-690.
I agree it’s ugly and a maintenance nightmare. However, the elevated railroad bed that is now I-690 from DeWitt out to Solvay is not much better.
The Thruway going through the city when it was built was not an option as that was not part of the Thruway charter. Yet ththe city wanted some sort of interstate from the city center to the suburbs in the north and access to the south.
They really only had a few options.
1) What they did.
2) direct I-81 easterly at Tully and bring it up through Jamesville where I-481 is now.
3) direct it through the Onondaga Indian Reservation and go up the west side of Onondaga Lake.
As it is they drew as straight a line as possible from Cortland to Watertown and followed the natural topography to minimize construction costs.
They elevated it to not destroy the city with a distinct no-cross line like there is with East/West railroad line.
Yup, I understand why they did it as they did.
The problem, as I approach half a century in age, is that advocates of large-scale projects which are defended with “it will last for decades!” don’t appreciate how short “decades” is, and the hideous cost of overhaul when “it” starts to decay in earnest thereafter.
(I’m implicitly including I-690 and any other related elevated transport when referencing I-81 within Syracuse. All part of the same crumbling skeleton.)
The people of Syracuse are pretty clear (about) what they want. We want that viaduct down, Hawkins said, yelling into a microphone. “
Just like the I-84 viaduct in Hartford.
I don’t know much about Syracuse but everyone single person I knew in California who was old enough to remember the Embarcadaro (sp?) viaduct didn’t miss it when it was removed.
I’ve seen it in movies like one of the Dirty Harry movies and it was godawful ugly.
In Sacramento they ran Interstate Five through Old Sacramento and the whole point was to try to destroy their riverfront area using the highway as a weapon. Now a lot of people regret that I-5 was diverted from its original route and then gerrymandered to pass through Sacramento and Stockton. It was originally supposed to go from Oregon to Vacaville (the original I-5 is now I-505) and then across to Rio Vista before crossing a river to Antioch.
They had crazy ideas in the 1950’s and now some of those ideas are due to be replaced and since the original structures have to be replaced anyway why not do it with something that makes a city more attractive instead of uglier?
San Francisco did it.
Living in Rochester for 15 years and that imbecile Howie Hawkins is still running for mayor. Like Lyndon LaRouche and taken just about as seriously
The only real solution is to just fix whats there. Dropping the expressway onto the city streets is as stupid as it gets. The tunnel is a simple non-starter . Not like Syracuse has businesses anymore, anyway.
Right. 81 is the main North south path through the city. If you coming from the North or south then it is pretty good be that you will using it. It takes you to the “Great” carousal mall which attracts many people that come from out of the city. And then Syracuse has something no other city in NYS has. It is home to the New York State Fair. No one would want to even imagine how long it would take to get there without a fast paced I81. Maybe more importantly is that quick access to major hospitals such as Upstate Medical Hospital would be greatly affected. The alternate routes are either extremely longer in distance or involve stop and go city traffic going through some very dangerous neighborhoods. Who is going to want to do either?
My understanding is that the viaduct is not so much worn out as it has constantly had major repairs. No the problem is that the Federal Government now wants more lanes than the viaduct can provide. They insist that to be up to current standards that it would have to be widened. The current number of lanes seem sufficient. Especially when you consider how much these alternate plans would slow things down. There are very few times when you can’t just wiz from one end of the viaduct to the other in less than 5 minutes. So why spend all that money as well. The viaduct sits right next to Upstate Hospital by the way. As things are now an Ambulance could enter Syracuse from the south of Syracuse via 81 and be parked in front of the hospital in a little more than 5 minutes. Mess with that and some people will die.
Lived in Syracuse for 40+ years until I moved to Rochester in 2004
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.