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Phase 1 of I-81-replacement project begins this fall

By Eric Reinhardt


Vehicles traveling along Interstate 81 (I-81) in the early evening hours. Work on the six-year, $2.25 billion I-81 viaduct-replacement project is set to begin this fall. (PHOTO CREDIT: ZOEYADVERTISING.COM)

SYRACUSE — The New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) is planning to get started with the Interstate 81 viaduct-replacement project this fall.

However, as of late August, the department hadn’t yet chosen a specific date, a NYSDOT spokesman told CNYBJ in an email message.

The six-year, $2.25 billion project will replace the elevated viaduct of Interstate 81 (I-81) through downtown Syracuse.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration and NYSDOT on May 31 signed the final documents for the project. NYSDOT then posted the formal record of decision (ROD) later that week. 

“Construction will begin later this fall on the community grid alternative,” NYSDOT Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez said in her remarks on May 31, announcing the signing in speaking with reporters. “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.” She spoke beneath the elevated viaduct across Erie Boulevard from the Erie Canal Museum.

The elevated portion of I-81 won’t go out of service until sometime in 2025.


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

The first phase will last about three years through 2025, with the second phase beginning in 2026 and slated to be complete 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 stressed. 

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,” he said. Frechette and additional members of the NYSDOT team working on the project joined Dominguez for the signing announcement. 

As part of the multi-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 office of Gov. Kathy Hochul. Portions of Interstates 481 and 690 will also be reconstructed to accommodate high-speed traffic going around and through the city.               

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