Mayor Miner rules out most I-81 options: Matt's Memo

Mayor Stephanie Miner.

Toward the end of a detailed, lengthy letter to the New York State transportation official in charge of the I-81 project Mayor Stephanie Miner describes the future changes to the highway through downtown Syracuse as a "once-in-a-lifetime project". That is a point the entire community can agree on - even if your favorite solution may not match your neighbor's.

The mayor does not endorse one plan specifically in her letter, but she does rule out most of the options. She doesn't like the double stacked elevated highway, the tunnel, the depressed highway or a renovated version of the same road.

She later decries the taking of property and demolishing buildings that 'annihilate historic character'. So that viewpoint also rules out the building of a new elevated highway that meets current transportation standards demanding wider roads and less severe curves.

That essentially leaves the option of grade level boulevards and avenues as the downtown alternative without a commitment to where the future I-81 designation should fall on either 481 through Dewitt or 690 through the city.

As much as some factions of the debate are concerned that removing the Interstate from the center of town would be a disaster to the economy Mayor Miner sees this change as an 'opportunity to build on our recent economic success'.

One key phrase that fully tips the mayor's hand is her reference to the importance of promoting urban planning best practices. The best of urban planners in cities across the country are not rebuilding elevated highways through central city areas. They are moving to grade level or subsurface with a tunnel.

It is a bit surprising that the mayor doesn't view a tunnel of some sort as a possibility. The DOT ruled the concept out primarily because of engineering and cost issues. Engineering can be overcome. Everything will be crazy expensive.

We've told you a lot about the deadline for public comment which came today. Don't worry there are still several more opportunities for public engagement as the progress moves forward toward a decision that may well be a once in a lifetime opportunity.


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