Interstate 81

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A new national study lists Interstate-81 in Syracuse as one of America’s ten worst urban highways that should be removed. The nonprofit that conducted the report is advocating the elevated viaduct be torn down and replaced with a boulevard.

President and CEO of Congress for the New Urbanism Lynn Richards said I-81 in Syracuse made the list because active discussions about removing the viaduct have been going on for a decade.

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The decision on the replacement of I-81 will be one of the most important public policy junctures for the Syracuse region in a generation.  This week on the Campbell Conversations, host Grant Reeher is joined by two local public officials who see in this moment the opportunity for a wholesale renewal of the housing and real estate landscape surrounding the old highway, which could lead to a city-wide regeneration.  Andrew Maxwell is Director of policy and innovation for the city of Syracuse, and Bill Simmons is the Director of the Syracuse Housing Authority. 

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In his State of the State speech in Syracuse, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that planning for Interstate-81 reconstruction in downtown Syracuse will once again include studies of the tunnel and depressed highway options. Those are two options that the state Department of Transportation previously eliminated.

Members of the audience applauded when Cuomo announced the return of the tunnel and depressed highway options.

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Over the past several years, many central New York residents have debated passionately about what they think should happen to the Interstate-81 project through downtown Syracuse. 

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Politically, central New York will have something new when it comes to Congressional representation this year. For the first time in a decade, the 24th District, which represents Syracuse and surrounding areas, will have someone other than a freshman member of Congress representing it.

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Onondaga County lawmakers on Tuesday will ask the state to consider eliminating tolls for local travelers on the New York State Thruway.

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The Interstate-81 project to replace the current viaduct in downtown Syracuse is down to two options. But regardless of whether a community grid or new viaduct is built, common features are proposed for another section of I-81 north of the viaduct. Those features include a new I-81 and I-690 interchange known as flyovers. It will also expand lanes and reconstruct several bridges.

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Residents in the town of DeWitt got a chance to see the final two proposals for reconstructing Interstate-81 through downtown Syracuse. Rebuilding the viaduct or replacing it with a street-level community grid could impact the DeWitt area.

If the state goes with the community grid option, Interstate-481, which runs through DeWitt, would be redesignated as the new I-81. It would circumvent the city of Syracuse rather than going through it as I-81 does currently and would continue to do if the viaduct is rebuilt.

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The New York State Department of Transportation is hosting neighborhood meetings regarding the Interstate-81 reconstruction project through downtown Syracuse. Many residents in Skaneateles are concerned that the project could negatively affect their area.

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As the Interstate 81 viaduct through downtown Syracuse comes to the end of its useful life, the state’s alternatives are down to two options: the viaduct reconstruction or community grid. The third option of a tunnel was dropped from consideration.

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Regardless of which option is chosen as the replacement of the Interstate 81 viaduct through downtown Syracuse, there are some common features in all the plans. The New York State Department of Transportation would expand I-81 north of the viaduct and add a new interchange. 

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Syracuse Democratic Mayor Stephanie Miner said Republican Rep. John Katko has not asked her how he can help the city of Syracuse during his first term in office. Katko's office refuted the claim and said that the congressman has helped on a number of issues.  

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo reiterated his positions on some major issues facing central New York while giving a speech in Syracuse on Thursday. Cuomo gave a positive outlook for upstate and double downed on his commitment to investing in the region.

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The state Department of Transportation is informing the public on how it would acquire property if it is needed in the reconstruction of Interstate 81 through downtown Syracuse. The earliest the state would begin that process is still two years away.

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo has named former Syracuse Mayor Matthew Driscoll as New York’s next commissioner of the Department of Transportation.

This announcement comes as the DOT is trying to narrow down possible options to replace the aging viaduct portion of Interstate-81 that goes through downtown Syracuse.

The decision over whether to keep the route through downtown or to divert traffic around Syracuse has been controversial.

Current Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner said it's always helpful to know people in positions of authority when decisions like this are being made.

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Syracuse lawmakers have gone on record calling on the New York State Department of Transportation to replace the Interstate-81 viaduct that runs through the city with a street-level boulevard. The move further defines the debate over what to do with the aging highway, which is reaching the end of its lifespan.

Common councilors have voted unanimously to support the option that would tear down I-81 and force traffic around the city, using Interstate-481.

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Syracuse-area Rep.-elect John Katko’s congressional committee assignments will put him in a place to see a lot of action as the 114th Congress opens in January.

Katko got the assignments he wanted on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Homeland Security Committee. There will be a lot going on in the area of transportation, as the highway bill and the Federal Aviation Administration bill will expire soon. He will also be involved in discussions over the reconstruction of Interstate 81 through Syracuse.

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Congressman-elect John Katko is finding out more about what his responsibilities will be when he is sworn in to the House of Representatives in January.

It won't become official until next week, but preliminarily it appears that Katko will serve on two committees, Homeland Security and the Transportation and Infrastructure committees. The first plays to the Republican's experience as a former federal prosecutor, as Katko dealt with border issues while working in El Paso.

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How does a political newcomer take on a two-term congressman and win a seat in Congress? That’s what happened in central New York this week, as Republican John Katko defeated Democratic Rep. Dan Maffei by 20 points.

Katko analyzed his winning campaign during a wide-ranging discussion with reporters yesterday.

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Republican John Katko and incumbent Democrat Dan Maffei largely stuck to the issues in their latest television debate Tuesday night. The two candidates took stands on the economy, Common Core and U.S. military action in Syria on the half-hour debate on CNY Central.

But on the issue of what to do about the aging span of Interstate 81 through downtown Syracuse, neither candidate had a definitive answer.

Katko said the options that have been presented are good ones, but he needs more information.

Syracuse is facing a host of challenges and opportunities; front and center among them are the replacing of I-81 and the economic development of the city.  On this edition of the Campbell Conversations, Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner and Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney sit down together with host Grant Reeher to discuss these key issues. 

Note: See the transcript below for highlights of the conversation.

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Three big roadways in upstate New York cities have made a top 10 list of freeways that should be torn down or filled in.

The Congress for New Urbanism says Syracuse’s Interstate 81, Rochester’s Inner Loop and Buffalo’s Skyway bridge are all roadways that do damage to the community and should be replaced. They’re also on the "Freeways Without a Future" list because there’s growing momentum to remove them.

The Chicago-based group advocates for more walkable cities and smart growth.

Interstate 81 runs through the heart of Syracuse, N.Y., where a 1.4-mile-long elevated stretch of the highway is known locally as "the viaduct." Like many road projects built in the middle of the last century, I-81 is bumping up against the end of its life span. While officials say it's still safe to drive on, the highway is crumbling in parts.