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I-81 project comment period starts after State DOT releases latest report

By Eric Reinhardt

Date:

The Interstate 81 viaduct in downtown Syracuse. Photo Credit: zoeyadvertising.com

SYRACUSE — The public now has the chance to comment on the $2 billion Interstate 81 (I-81) viaduct-replacement project after state officials released the latest report on the project on July 16.

State officials favor the community-grid alternative for the project, which would deconstruct a section of I-81 in downtown Syracuse and redirect highway traffic to I- 481. A portion of I-690 near the current intersection with I-81 would also be rebuilt and a boulevard-like Business Loop 81 would be created in downtown.

Marie Therese Dominguez, commissioner of the New York State Department of Transportation (DOT); Mark Frechette, project manager; and other DOT officials addressed reporters during a July 16 briefing at the Senator John H. Hughes State Office Building at 333 E. Washington St. in Syracuse, next to Syracuse City Hall. 

The report issued that day is the DEIS, or the draft environmental-impact statement, available at https://static.parsons.com/I-81-DEIS/07-2021/.

The DOT — working with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) — crafted the DEIS after conducting “extensive outreach with the public and stakeholders” throughout the Central New York region, the office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a July 16 release.

Public hearings

The public hearings on the DEIS for the I-81 viaduct project and eminent-domain procedure law are set for Tuesday, Aug. 17 and Wednesday, Aug. 18. 

The project team will be holding two virtual public hearings on Aug. 17 at 11 a.m. and then 5 p.m. To submit oral comments, those interested can register at: https://cscos.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_uALJ5SbDQRK6IqnilPuYJA#_blank

The project team will also conduct two in-person public hearings on Aug. 18 at the Oncenter. Doors open at 3:30 p.m. A pre-recorded presentation will be shown at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m., which will be followed by oral comments. 

York State Department of Transportation (DOT)(right) and Mark Frechette, project manager, and other DOT officials addressed reporters on the Interstate 81 viaduct-replacement project during a July 16 briefing in Syracuse. ERIC REINHARDT / CNYBJ

Public comment period

NYSDOT and FHWA will accept comments on the document through 5 p.m. eastern time on Sept. 14. The entities will summarize and respond to “all substantive comments received” in the final design report/final EIS for the project, per Cuomo’s office. 

The public may submit comments using the department’s electronic comment form, accessible through this link: https://bit.ly/3ixawNu.

Additional features

Additional project features that NYSDOT will highlight in detail in the coming weeks will include: 

 • A Gateway to the City at the entrance to Business Loop 81 featuring a roundabout at Business Loop 81 and Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive 

• A new off-ramp from Business Loop 81 northbound at Colvin Street 

• Bear Street improvements 

• Reconstruction of Almond Street to include two 12-foot-wide travel lanes in each direction, widened sidewalks and bicycle facilities 

• A new third lane on I-481 between the Thruway and I-690; and a “greatly improved” Exit 3 

• A new full interchange on I-690 at Crouse and Irving Avenues to provide more direct connections to hospitals, employment centers, and educational facilities on University Hill 

•  A reconfigured West Street Exit 

• Sewer-system upgrades that will improve stormwater management and water quality 

After federal approval, the project will break ground in 2022, Cuomo’s office said. 

Preliminary plans call for phase 1 to include work on the northern and southern sections of Business Loop 81; work on I-690 over Crouse and Irving Avenues; and the conversion of I-481 to I-81 including several road and bridge projects along the corridor. 

 

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