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New York Governor Joins Federal, State, and Local Officials to Break Ground on I-81 Viaduct Project in Syracuse

SYRACUSE, NY — Governor Kathy Hochul recently joined federal, state, and local officials to officially break ground on the Interstate 81 Viaduct Project in Syracuse, formally launching one of the largest and most ambitious construction projects ever undertaken by New York State, in partnership with the federal government. Overseen by the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT), the $2.25 billion project will create a Community Grid to reconnect downtown neighborhoods severed by the I-81 viaduct’s construction and correct an enduring injustice that has disproportionately impacted residents of color in the City of Syracuse for decades.

The historic project, which is the result of more than a decade of planning and community engagement, will also create a new Business Loop 81, which will pass through the city distributing traffic along the way, and make other improvements that will improve mobility, enhance safety, create new recreational opportunities, and promote economic growth throughout all of central New York.

“New York is the only state that has boldly embraced the urgent need to reconnect communities with a historic five simultaneous mega projects that will right the wrongs of the past,” Hochul said. “As a central part of our efforts, the Interstate 81 Viaduct Project will serve as a national example of how thoughtful infrastructure can bring people together, promote growth, and increase prosperity for all communities. With this groundbreaking, we are beginning to weave back together the neighborhoods that were torn apart decades ago — healing the wounds that have festered for far too long and creating more livable, affordable, and sustainable communities.”

The I-81 Viaduct Project is part of Governor Hochul’s unprecedented commitment to modernize New York State’s infrastructure and invest in projects that promote equity, connectivity, and multi-modal transportation opportunities for communities across the state in partnership with the federal government. The $32.8 billion State Capital Plan adopted in 2022 helps fulfill the governor’s vision for a modern transportation system that serves New Yorkers across the state, and the I-81 Viaduct Project will be funded with a mix of federal and state resources. Since the beginning of her time in office, Governor Hochul has made reconnecting communities through infrastructure a hallmark of her Administration, with more than $3 billion allocated in the NYSDOT’s capital plan to transform such areas in East Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Albany, and the South Bronx.

Through the construction of the Community Grid, the project aims to reverse the ill-considered decision made in the 1950s to build the viaduct through the heart of Syracuse. The Community Grid will reconnect neighborhoods, enhance mobility, and improve access to and from the interstate highway network and key destinations, including the downtown business districts, area hospitals, and Syracuse University. It will also provide safe and ADA accessible pedestrian and bicycle amenities throughout the project area.

The Community Grid design will reconnect neighborhoods that have been separated since the viaduct's construction. The project will upgrade a portion of Interstate 481 — which would be re-designated as I-81 — and construct the new Business Loop 81 along Almond Street to improve connections to downtown and other business districts.

The project also includes improvements to the sewer and stormwater management system that will reduce runoff and help prevent overflows during heavy rains that threaten the water quality of Onondaga Creek and Onondaga Lake.

Additional project features include:

  • Reconstruction of Almond Street, nearly 13 miles of new or reconstructed sidewalks, two miles of new or reconstructed shared-use paths for bicycles and pedestrians, a one-mile cycle track, and nearly two miles of new or reconstructed shared vehicle and bicycle lanes
  • A new full interchange on I-690 at Crouse and Irving Avenues to provide more direct connections to hospitals, employment centers, and educational facilities on University Hill
  • A reconfigured I-690 West Street interchange
  • A new northbound off-ramp from Business Loop 81 to Colvin Street
  • Bear Street improvements
  • A new third lane on I-481 northbound between I-690 and the NYS Thruway (Interstate 90); and an improved Exit 3

Major construction is now underway on the first of multiple contracts planned for the project. Work on Contract 1 consists of reconstructing the existing Interstate 481/I-81 northern interchange to the re-designated I-81 and Business Loop 81, while also converting portions of I-481 to the new I-81 and making several road and bridge improvements along the corridor.

Contract 2, which was awarded this week, will begin the conversion of the southern interchange of I-481/I-81. Together these two contracts are essential to maintaining a high speed interstate connection with national and international north-south trade routes from Tennessee to the Canadian border.

The first phase of the I-81 Viaduct Project will create gateways to the Community Grid and will relieve existing traffic congestion issues in the city and improve access to and from the interstate highway network and such key destinations as the downtown business districts, area hospitals, and Syracuse University. It will also provide safe and ADA accessible pedestrian and bicycle amenities throughout the project area.

“Since day one in office, the governor has been laser focused on getting this project done, and today her vision has become a reality," said NYSDOT Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez. "So get ready, Syracuse, because your transportation transformation starts today. The curtain is closing on outdated infrastructure that divides communities, and the door is opening to a 21st century transportation network that fosters improved livability, economic vitality, and sustainability for all the communities of central New York. This once-in-a-lifetime transportation investment project will provide new opportunities for growth, jobs, and economic development throughout the entire region — investing in people and positively lifting the community for generations to come."