State DOT releases plans for three new tunnel options that could replace elevated I-81

The New York State DOT has just revealed three new tunnel options that could one day take the place of the elevated section of Interstate 81 through downtown Syracuse. These proposals will be explained in detail to the general public at a series of meetings on Thursday. They were already discussed to an exclusive group of community leaders several weeks ago.

Two of the tunnel options would go underneath downtown Syracuse on a path similar to the current viaduct. The plan explained in the greatest detail would follow Almond Street. The tunnel would begin as 81 enters the southside of the downtown area near Castle Street and reemerge on the city's northside near Butternut Street. It would include improved connectors to I-690 heading east and west.

A second downtown tunnel plan would move the excavation over a few blocks to the west following the line of the current Townsend Street. That would allow the current highway to remain standing during construction, but it would also significantly impact the Pioneer Homes housing project and other downtown buildings.

A third more drastically different tunnel idea is called the Eastern Allignment Tunnel Alternative. It would begin well south of downtown near the 481 interchange and cut under neath University Hill. The tunnel would reemerge near Teall Ave and I-690. The tunnel would then resume and reemerge on the city's northside connecting with 81 North near Bear Street.

The eastern tunnel would allow traffic to continue during construction. This is the most elaborate alternative and cost estimates are close to $4 billion.

The NY State DOT is holding public sessions to full explain the alternatives Thursday, May 1st at 4:00, 6:00 and 7:30 pm at the Everson Museum.