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Independent expert to study all options (including a tunnel) for I-81 in Syracuse

During his State of the State speech in Syracuse Wednesday, Governor Andrew Cuomo said a tunnel remains an option as the DOT studies how to replace the aging stretch of Interstate 81 in Syracuse.

Gov. Cuomo says he has ordered the DOT to have "an independent firm with international tunnel expertise to carefully study all possible replacement options," including a tunnel, community grid, replacing the viaduct that carries I-81 in Syracuse, a depressed highway, a combination of a community grid and a tunnel or a combination of a community grid and a depressed highway.

"I-81 is long overdue for a complete revitalization, and we must carefully explore every option to ensure what is best for the economic vitality of the region," Governor Cuomo said in a release. "This project presents once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform an outdated, deteriorating highway into robust, efficient economic driver, and we must not let it go to waste."

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The DOT had previously began an environmental review for three primary options (a tunnel, a community grid and replacing the viaduct) in August 2013, and last fall the DOT indicated the tunnel option was no longer on the table. Now an independent expert will conduct the study instead, putting all options back on the table.

“This project is an important part of Governor Cuomo’s transformational investments in the region and will shape the future of Syracuse. The department will begin to implement the Governor’s directive immediately and welcomes this additional review and will advance the replacement process,” State Transportation Commissioner Matthew Driscoll said in a release by the Governor's office.

Gov. Cuomo's office says each option will be evaluated based on the following criteria: purpose and need, constructability, property impacts and cost. When the review is complete, a feasibility report will be made available for public review and comment.

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