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Final approval granted for I-81 viaduct-replacement project, which will begin this fall

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SYRACUSE, N.Y. — The six-year, $2.25 billion project to replace the elevated viaduct of Interstate 81 (I-81) through downtown Syracuse is set to get started this fall.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration and the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) on Tuesday signed the final documents for the project. 

NYSDOT will post the formal record of decision (ROD) later this week.

Gov. Kathy Hochul and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D–N.Y.) on Tuesday announced the signing of the formal ROD for the project. The signing means construction on the community grid alternative will begin this fall. 

Mark Frechette (right at podium), project director of the Interstate 81 (I-81) viaduct-replacement project, and Marie Therese Dominguez, commissioner of the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT), on Tuesday answered questions from local reporters about the state and federal government signing off on the $2.25 billion I-81 project. Frechette and Dominguez spoke beneath the elevated portion of the highway and across Erie Boulevard from the Erie Canal Museum. (Eric Reinhardt / CNYBJ)

The first phase will last about three years through 2025 and the second phase begins in 2026 and will be done by the end of 2028, Mark Frechette, NYSDOT’s I-81 project director, said. Central New Yorkers should also keep in mind that the elevated portion of I-81 won’t go out of service until sometime in 2025, he added.

Frechette called the record of decision a “major milestone” for the I-81 project.

“It is the final selection of the … community grid alternative, not only by the state of New York but also by the Federal Highway Administration,” Frechette said, noting that it was signed on Tuesday.

Frechette joined NYSDOT Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez who announced the signing in speaking with reporters across from Erie Canal Museum and under the elevated portion of I-81.

Besides Frechette, additional members of the NYSDOT team working on the project, joined Dominguez for the Tuesday afternoon announcement.

The six-year, $2.25 billion Interstate 81 (I-81) viaduct-replacement project is set to begin this fall after state and federal officials signed off on the project on what’s known as the ROD, or record of decision. (Image credit: zoeyadvertising.com)

“Construction will begin later this fall on the community grid alternative,” Dominguez said in her remarks. “This has been a long time coming, to say the least. But, out of all of the options that we thoroughly studied, the community grid alternative represents a generational opportunity for the city of Syracuse and its surrounding communities.”

At $2.25 billion, it represents the largest Upstate project that NYSDOT has undertaken, she noted.

As part of the $2.25 billion project, the existing elevated structure “that has divided the City of Syracuse for decades and disproportionately impacted residents of color” will be replaced by a new Business Loop 81 with an integrated community grid that will disperse traffic along local north-south and east-west streets, per the Tuesday announcement from the office of Gov. Hochul. 

Portions of Interstates 481 and 690 will also be reconstructed to accommodate high speed traffic going around and through the city, Hochul’s office said.  

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