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As you may be aware, the SMTC and the NYSDOT hosted the first series of public workshops for The I-81 Challenge this past spring.  The I-81 Challenge May 2011 Public Workshops Summary Report summarizes the findings and input from those workshops.

You can now download and read the full summary on our website.

“Our report makes interesting reading,” said Meghan Vitale, SMTC Principal Transportation Planner. “Community opinion is fairly evenly divided between keeping the I-81 viaduct in place to maintain the convenience, ease of access, and vehicle mobility of our region, or removing it, because people see it as a barrier to urban economic development, pedestrian mobility and a more attractive, cohesive city center.”

“These seemingly contradictory objectives will present a stiff challenge to the engineers charged with designing the next I-81,”said James D’Agostino, SMTC Director. “But this will be one of the most important infrastructure and economic development projects in our region for many years to come. We really must understand all the needs and desires of all who use I-81 and live or work in the area in order to formulate a plan that will best serve our city and region.”

Traffic studies completed in April 2010 show that I-81 through the city of Syracuse primarily functions as a commuter and local access route, with only about 12% of all vehicles traveling on the interstate system passing through the Syracuse region.

According to Vitale, the community’s visions for the future of the I-81 corridor generally fall into one of three major categories: [1] Rebuild the viaduct while addressing some of the fundamental flaws in the current design; [2] Remove the viaduct and replace it with an urban boulevard or other thoroughfare integrated into the local street network; or [3] Replace the viaduct with a below-grade highway – either a tunnel or open trench.

However, workshop participants were keenly aware of the high cost of the third option, with many suggesting that such funds would be better spent elsewhere.

Nearly 700 people participated in the May workshops and more than 200 additional people participated online. You can find a complete account of all comments and input received in the Appendices of the Summary Report.

The feedback gathered during the first round of public workshops will be used to develop a set of preliminary options for the future of I-81, refine the project’s goals and objectives, and confirm the deficiencies and needs identified in the Physical Conditions Analysis prepared by NYSDOT.

The public involvement efforts will continue through additional questionnaires, newsletters, website updates, continued use of social media, and future public workshops and open houses. If you haven’t done so already, make sure to sign up for our mailing list for updates about project milestones and future public involvement opportunities.

Thank you for your continued interest in The I-81 Challenge!

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