Mayor Walsh Praises Historic Win for I-81 Viaduct Project

Published on March 13, 2024

From the Office of Governor Kathy Hochul

Governor Hochul and Syracuse Mayor Walsh Announce the I-81 Viaduct Project to Officially Receive $180 Million Under the Federal Reconnecting Communities and Neighborhoods Grant

Application Submitted by NYSDOT and City of Syracuse to Focus on Complete Streets Enhancements on Both State and Local Road Networks While Creating New Destinations for Syracuse Residents and Visitors to Enjoy

Governor Kathy Hochul and City of Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh today announced an award of $180 million under the federal Reconnecting Communities and Neighborhoods Grant for the I-81 viaduct project. The grant, submitted by State Department of Transportation in partnership with the City of Syracuse and made possible through the federal Inflation Reduction Act, will create new and enhanced destinations for Syracuse residents and visitors to enjoy, while incorporating complete streets elements along the state and local road network on or adjacent to the community grid. The project, which officially broke ground last summer in Central New York, will demolish the I-81 viaduct in the City of Syracuse and replace it with Business Loop 81, a community grid network currently occupied by Almond Street. The new Business Loop 81/Almond Street will increase connections to downtown, improve traffic flow, connect residents, enhance safety and equity, and boost economic opportunity across Central New York. The project will include additional community-focused elements, including sidewalks, bike paths, new shared use paths, and new and enhanced parks and public spaces that will further reconnect and reinvigorate the neighborhoods.

“Thanks to support from the Biden-Harris Administration, we are turning the vision of a reunified Syracuse into a reality,” Governor Hochul said. “The I-81 Viaduct Project will reconnect communities that a highway has divided for generations, proving that we can rebuild our infrastructure to support healthy and thriving neighborhoods. New York is setting the national model for major infrastructure projects that prioritize equity and community engagement.”

New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) partnered with the City of Syracuse for the grant under the framework and joint partnership of I-81 Connecting Syracuse, which will focus on transportation improvements to the state and local street network to reconnect the neighborhoods, while addressing social conditions and quality of life in disadvantaged communities in the City of Syracuse.

Project components under the grant will bolster community connections by:

  • Designing and reconstructing portions of Business Loop 81 along Almond Street (from Van Buren Street to Erie Boulevard) as a complete street with a landscaped median, cycle tracks and shared use paths, sidewalks and other landscape improvements.
  • Supporting the planning, design and construction of a new Canal District that highlights the historical roots of Erie and Oswego Canals within the City, creating a new destination that residents and visitors will enjoy.
  • Rehabilitating Business Loop 81 on Erie Boulevard that connects to Almond Street and the Canal District, with sidewalks on both sides, on-street parking, landscaping and consolidated driveway curb cuts.
  • Creating another new destination with the design and construction of the Lodi Overlook atop the northern section of Business Loop 81, with an expansive view of Onondaga Lake and the surrounding area.
  • Creating a new, shared use bike and pedestrian path along Business Loop 81 from Hiawatha Boulevard to court street, leading to the overlook and improving north-south connectivity for alternative forms of transportation.
  • Improving Wilson Park, including reconstructing and adding a new basketball court and a splash pad.
  • Reconnecting public local/City streets in the New 15th Ward neighborhood, including updating, modernizing, and building a complete street network with landscaping, lighting, and public utility improvements.
  • Completing design of Linear Park in the new 15th Ward neighborhood, complete with a new greenway and enhanced recreational opportunities for local residents.

These improvements on state roads and the new 15th ward were designed to accommodate priorities articulated by local residents including safety, proximity and access to critical services and the beautification of the community. These improvements also help unlock the opportunities for Syracuse’s mixed-income housing redevelopment initiative in the New 15th Ward by providing much of the needed public infrastructure improvements, while continuing effort to separate the sewer system between Onondaga Lake and Onondaga Creek.

New York State Department of Transportation Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez said, “I am very optimistic about the future of the City of Syracuse and Central New York and that is thanks to Governor Hochul’s unprecedented $2.25 billion investment in the I-81 viaduct project and the Biden Administration’s continued support for reconnecting communities across the state. In the coming years, we will not only correct an injustice that has had generational repercussions, but fundamentally change the course of history for the City of Syracuse and all of Central New York for the better. Today’s announcement will bring the I-81 viaduct project close to the heart of Syracuse, revitalizing neighborhoods and providing residents of the new 15th Ward a renewed sense of hope for a brighter future.”

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer said, “When I became majority leader, I said I would deliver the federal investment to make the I-81 transformation a reality. Today I am proud to say a promise made is a promise kept as we deliver a whopping $180-plus million to lay the foundation for a more interconnected and dynamic future of Syracuse after the viaduct comes down. When I-81 was built it cut through the heart of Syracuse, it fractured a once vibrant neighborhood and left scars of systemic inequality that are felt to this day. Federal policies are what created the concrete walls of I-81 that divided Syracuse neighborhoods, and today the federal government is stepping up to right that historical wrong. With this funding, the federal government is shining a national spotlight on Syracuse and New York State, under Governor Hochul, as leaders in addressing the legacy of highway construction dividing neighborhoods and giving the support needed so that Syracuse can be a blueprint for reconnecting communities across America.”

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said, “This is one of the biggest investments in the transformation of I-81 and downtown Syracuse yet, and I’m proud to have advocated hard to deliver it. I helped lead the creation of the Reconnecting Communities Pilot and Neighborhood Access and Equity programs, and over the past few years, I’ve brought key White House officials—including Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and White House Infrastructure Coordinator Mitch Landrieu—to Syracuse to show them the enormous potential of the I-81 project. And today, all of those efforts are paying off. This $180 million in funding will promote growth, create good-paying jobs, and most importantly, build stronger, more equitable, and more livable communities on the South Side of Syracuse while ensuring that the people who live there can stay there. I’m a proud supporter of this project and I will keep fighting in Congress to deliver for Syracuse.”

City of Syracuse Mayor Benjamin Walsh said, “This is another historic win for Syracuse and Central New York that will help us realize the vision of a Community Grid built for people. New York State Department of Transportation and the City of Syracuse will be better able to improve mobility, rebuild city infrastructure, improve transportation, and strengthen neighborhoods, parks and public spaces. I thank President Biden for committing to the Reconnecting Communities program and recognizing the importance of the I-81 project. And I credit Majority Leader Charles Schumer and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand for championing Syracuse for Reconnecting Communities funding. We look forward to continuing our work with Governor Hochul, Transportation Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez and their DOT team in maximizing the positive impact of the Community Grid for generations to come.”

For more information about the I-81 viaduct project, click here.