Replace I-81 with Mass Transit

Howie Hawkins, a Green Party candidate running for the 4th District council seat, said he would like mass transportation to be considered. Hawkins suggested that through traffic could be sent around Syracuse on I-481 while much of the traffic into the city could be provided by buses, light rail, or other public transportation.

Syracuse Common Council listens to public opinions about I-81

Video at http://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2013/06/syracuse_common_council_listen.html
Tim Knauss | tknauss@syracuse.comBy Tim Knauss 
on June 10, 2013 at 7:08 PM, updated June 11, 2013 at 10:02 AM

SYRACUSE, N.Y. - Only nine people turned out Monday afternoon to tell the Syracuse Common Council their preferences for the future of Interstate 81 -- hardly enough to get a sense of public opinion.

But Council President Van Robinson said the council will continue to search out and evaluate information so that it can weigh in before state transportation officials decide the elevated highway's future.

Robinson said his next step will be to appoint an ad hoc committee -- composed of council members, experts and stakeholders -- who will report back to the council and help shape its response.

Monday's 4 p.m. public hearing was finished so quickly that developer Bob Doucette, who arrived about 4:40 p.m., was too late to speak. (For the record, Doucette favors tearing down the viaduct to create a street-level boulevard.) 

Four speakers, including Todd Buchko, general manager of the WonderWorks entertainment facility at Destiny USA, stressed the convenience of the current I-81 structure and recommended keeping it an elevated highway.

Landscape architect Stephen Buechner offered his vision of a highway tunnel covered by a 32-acre park at street level, a development he said would energize downtown as neither a boulevard nor an elevated highway would.

Howie Hawkins, a Green Party candidate running for the 4th District council seat, said he would like mass transportation to be considered. Hawkins suggested that through traffic could be sent around Syracuse on I-481 while much of the traffic into the city could be provided by buses, light rail, or other public transportation.

David Mankiewicz, senior vice president of the business development group CenterState CEO, urged the council not to back a specific plan until the state completes an environmental review. The review will reveal important information about the impacts of competing plans, he said.

Two other speakers also did not recommend a specific plan, but urged the council to remain focused on the project because of its importance.

The state Department of Transportation started an "I-81 Challenge'' in 2009 to gather public input on the future of the highway through downtown, said James D'Agostino, director of the Syracuse Metropolitan Transportation Council, which is cooperating in the effort.

State DOT officials began with five master strategies and recently declared three of the plans "unfeasible,'' D'Agostino said. The remaining options are to create a boulevard or to reconstruct an elevated highway.

The state's I-81 corridor study "is coming to an end shortly" and will give way soon to detailed environmental reviews required by the state and federal governments. The public will have more opportunities for comment during the environmental reviews, after which final decisions will be made, D'Agostino said.

Contact Tim Knauss at tknauss@syracuse.com or 315-470-3023.

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commented 2013-08-09 13:51:24 -0400
Trouble is when business and politicians get together. A supporter of the new PAC states the boulevard will ruin his business as the off ramp outside his door therefore keep the elevated. This supposes the world beats a path to his shop.People come to Syracuse to blow in and shop at his store. Not for the lake, not for the Dome, not for our schools or hospitals but for his store is the All Mighty Grand Attraction to Syracuse and the driver of the local economy.

Two outcomes are probable. Ignoring a super highway through the city was correct in the first place. I’m sure to he thriving tourist industry in Europe would wonder and I’m sure tourists go to NYC because of the miles of eight lane roads.

First; we will, in all likelihood, go through this again in five decades when the elevated needs reconstruction. More expensive and if the elevated succeeds property will be more of a premium. Why this boogeyman of uncertainty takes priority is beyond me.

Second; the suburbs are the fastest growing place of poverty, people are moving to the city where the jobs are and have since the Victorian era and beyond. While we may not have public transportation self driving cars are now appearing on the market so there will be a transportation renaissance . I, myself, wouldn’t know I haven’t had a automobile for 15 years.
The other boogeyman of uncertainty is Syracuse continues to decline the tourists will arrive to state at the skeleton of the highway and watch the police do pot raids to justify an armored vehicle. If this is so shouldn’t we leave a nice looking corpse?

Your humble servant,

Charles DuFarle
Itinerant Philosopher.
Howie Hawkins is the 2017 Green candidate for Syracuse Mayor
Hawkins for Mayor