New York State projects 6 years of construction for community network

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The community network alternative of the Interstate 81 overpass project will take six years to build, according to the project’s environmental impact statement.

The report, which was released on Friday, details the environmental and economic impact that removing the overpass and its alternatives would have on the surrounding community. The community network was identified by the report as the “preferred alternative” for the project by the New York State Department of Transportation.

The six-year construction would follow two phases, according to the statement. The first involves all the work necessary to rename Interstate 481, which runs through the eastern suburbs of Syracuse, as I-81. The designation would mean directing traffic usually traveling along I-81 to I-481. The two intersect north of Syracuse.

The second phase is to close segments of eastbound Interstate 690 and use a local street detour between West Street and Crouse Avenue for disrupted traffic. Next, the phase would see I-690 rebuilt, the overpass demolished, and local streets, including Almond Street, rebuilt into the community grid.



Maya Goosman | Director of Digital Design

NYSDOT announced its approval of the community grid option to replace the overpass in 2019. The plan has been widely endorsed by community members, including Mayor Ben Walsh and Chancellor of Syracuse University, Kent Syverud.

Governor Kathy Hochul also spoke in favor of the community network. The New York state budget, released on April 7, provided $1.1 billion for the overpass project.

Local residents have also expressed their support for the return of the community that was lost with the initial construction of the overpass.

While the community network has garnered broad support in Syracuse, residents have worked to ensure the project doesn’t displace more people in the area, as well as to create more local construction job opportunities. The construction of I-81 in the 1950s and 1960s devastated the historic 15th District, a predominantly black neighborhood.

Blueprint 15 is a local non-profit that works with Purpose Built Communities, an organization that deals with community revitalization, to ensure that those who live in the East Adams neighborhood are no longer displaced. The statement asserted that the presence of a more local street network in the community network plan would not affect the accessibility of local businesses in the area or displace residents.

According to the statement, 55,851 people live in the central study area – the land immediately adjacent to the viaduct – which the project would affect from 2019.

55,851 — Number of people living in the central study area adjacent to the overpass in 2019.

Danny Kahn | Design Editor

Part of the statement was an analysis of the effect on the surrounding community that the construction of the community network might have.

According to the release, NYSDOT anticipates temporary increases in noise, emissions from construction equipment, traffic diversions, and changes in the visual appearance of neighborhoods near construction zones.

The statement said construction will be coordinated with Dr. King Elementary School, which sits adjacent to the overpass.

NYSDOT will conduct regular monitoring of ambient air outside the school to monitor construction emissions. Although the statement says the ministry will implement “corrective actions” if emissions exceed projected levels around the school, it does not specify what those actions would be.

I-81 Final Environmental Assessment… by Richard Perrin

Any asbestos, lead-based paint or hazardous materials encountered during construction of the project would be transported to approved handling facilities, the statement said.

While NYSDOT will open detour routes for businesses that may have less accessibility due to construction, the department will not relocate those businesses except for properties that will be permanently acquired.

If a property is acquired permanently, the state will pay “fair market value” for the property.

The statement predicted that four buildings, with 35 employees, would be displaced by the construction of the community grid.

In addition to the detours, the statement detailed the local street improvements that would be implemented as part of the project, including the reconfiguration of traffic lanes, the addition of turning areas, the installation of temporary signals and the ramp changes. The release also said Van Buren Street would be permanently rehabilitated as a result of the project and Crouse Avenue would be converted from one-way to two-way traffic.

The department also will not relocate residents who live in or near construction zones unless it permanently acquires those properties.

The ministry will close a 20-foot portion of Wilson Park, which is adjacent to the overpass, to provide a safety buffer between the park and construction. The buffer would be in effect for less than a year of the community network option, according to the release.

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Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said March 21 that the declaration could mean the launch of the Community Network Project by the end of 2022. website for the viaduct project establishes the schedule for the start of the project in the fall of 2022.

The NYSDOT statement and website list two other main proposals for the project — a “no construction” option, which would keep the freeway in its current state, and an “overpass alternative” which calls for a complete reconstruction of the overpass.

The release of the statement triggered a 30-day public review period, after which the state will issue a Record of Decision.

Contact Richard: [email protected] | @richardperrins2