Need Community Initiative on I81 Redevelopment

Otherwise, distant bureacrats will decide for us.

January 1, 2015

I believe the community should take initiative to steer the direction of the I81 Redevelopment Project. If we want the best, most inspired, solution for our community, we must organize, reason through, and reach consensus on the project. If we don't, some distant state and federal bureaucrats (not engineers and designers) will decide for us.

The tunnel option is expensive, wasteful, pure overkill, and would provide less access to downtown. Traffic would be disrupted for 6-8 years (according to DOT), in which time, by the way, we would all learn to do without a viaduct and a tunnel and realize that a boulevard and street grid enhancements would work very well.

The viaduct option is a poor choice. The discussion of a boulevard option exists precisely because of current dissatisfaction with the viaduct solution. It is ugly; it creates physical barriers in the city; it consumes much would-be valuable land; it is in fact the cause of rush hour congestion downtown by concentrating traffic to a couple exits and streets. After 50 years of experience, traffic engineers, architects, and city governments know that interstate highways through cities is a failed concept.

Since DOT has rejected the tunnel option, and the viaduct rebuild is mostly a highly technical and constrained design activity only DOT can develop, the only option the community can significantly help develop is a "boulevard" option. Perhaps "Avenue" sounds better? Considering that Syracuse functioned just fine without both I81 and I690 in the 1950s when Syracuse had 75,000 more inhabitants, a boulevard seems perfectly reasonable to consider.

For this option, DOT will actually need our help to learn our needs, desires, and preferences. So, our task is to provide DOT a clear and specific boulevard proposal. We should explore and develop the best, most broad scope boulevard proposal we can imagine, and then compare it to the viaduct option and prove to ourselves which is best for the future of Syracuse and surroundings.

The scope of the project should include all of I81 through the city, related street upgrades, the 50-70 acres of potential new land made available for development, public transit, and bicycle/pedestrian infrastructure. Let's start with everything on the table, let's unleash our imagination and see what we can create. I have already written a broad scope "boulevard" proposal that was submitted to DOT and well-received. I think it explains a lot and paints a good picture of what is possible and how much there is to gain from a well-conceived boulevard replacement of I81 through the city. I offer it as a starting point for discussion. Please give it a good read: .

Carlo Moneti
Syracuse, NY