This is the second in a series of blog posts that highlight findings from NYSDOT’s draft Technical Memorandum #1: Physical Conditions Analysis (Tech Memo #1).  To read other blog posts in the series, click here.

Before delving into details on traffic volumes and bridge conditions, it’s helpful to understand how I-81 fits into and affects development patterns in the region. Existing land use in Onondaga County generally follows a traditional radial pattern. The urbanized area is centered in the City of Syracuse, where many of the region’s jobs and about 30% of the population are located. This urbanized area has expanded over time to include first- and second-ring suburbs, which continue to develop along major commuter routes. Significant housing and commercial development has occurred in these suburbs, while industrial uses, initially located in proximity to rail lines, can generally be found north of the city.

Demographic trends reflect these development patterns, as population has shifted from city to county and out of the county altogether.  Since 1990, the populations of the City of Syracuse and Onondaga County have steadily declined. The city population decreased by 15.7% from 1990 to 2008, while the county population decreased by 3.5%.

The Syracuse metropolitan area’s economy is also characterized by a migration of jobs from the urban core to surrounding suburbs. Between 2002 and 2008, employment in the City of Syracuse dropped by approximately 11,000 jobs.  Over the same period, employment in Onondaga County increased by almost 7,000 jobs. The education and health industries make up the largest employment sector in the City of Syracuse, representing 43.2% of total employment in the city. The trade, transport, and utilities industry represents the next largest share of total employment in the city at 11.3%.

To read more about the economic, social, and environmental context for The I-81 Challenge, check out the full report for Tech Memo #1, or the summary document, at

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