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Old 05-02-2013, 08:03 PM
 
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I know this topic has been discussed before, but it is still amazing (and unnerving) that I-81 through Syracuse will have eclipsed its "useful life" in less than 4 years.

Nearly 100 people turn out for Interstate-81 meeting in Salina

I know I am in the severe minority here, but I always have thought the elevated portions of I-81 gave Syracuse an urbane, distinctly northern feel, much like thruways in the Bronx, for example. I do not buy that I-81 was the sole reason for the decline of inner city Syracuse. Urban decay and population decline occurred in ALL northern industrial cities, disastrous urban renewal projects or not. Having lived near or in cities along the I-81 corridor from Virginia to Syracuse, I have always had a fondness for I-81 in Syracuse BECAUSE it is the only city through which I-81 passes directly through. I don't believe people who pass through Syracuse would stop in the city if I-81 went around the city. No I-81 through Syracuse and a re-routing along I-481 would just lead to more suburban congestion and sprawl without growth (see: Pittsburgh).

With that being said, I do not forsee the elevate sections of I-81 being rebuilt. I honestly think building tunnels underneath the city would be prohibitively expensive. I am in favor of a more cut-and-cover approach, but with pedestrian-friendly overpasses rather than a complete rebuilding of the urban grid. Has anyone ever been to the northside of Denver? There are some very attractive examples of this in the northern suburbs. Sorry I couldn't get one complete image but if you can mentally piece the images below together you can kind of get a feel for this "new urbanism". I think the style of northside Denver along I-25 could be woven quite nicely into the urban fabric of Syracuse, especially with the similar terrain and winter weather. What do you guys think about reworking I-81?






Last edited by Steelers10; 05-02-2013 at 08:16 PM..
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Old 05-03-2013, 02:50 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steelers10 View Post
I know this topic has been discussed before, but it is still amazing (and unnerving) that I-81 through Syracuse will have eclipsed its "useful life" in less than 4 years.

Nearly 100 people turn out for Interstate-81 meeting in Salina

I know I am in the severe minority here, but I always have thought the elevated portions of I-81 gave Syracuse an urbane, distinctly northern feel, much like thruways in the Bronx, for example. I do not buy that I-81 was the sole reason for the decline of inner city Syracuse. Urban decay and population decline occurred in ALL northern industrial cities, disastrous urban renewal projects or not. Having lived near or in cities along the I-81 corridor from Virginia to Syracuse, I have always had a fondness for I-81 in Syracuse BECAUSE it is the only city through which I-81 passes directly through. I don't believe people who pass through Syracuse would stop in the city if I-81 went around the city. No I-81 through Syracuse and a re-routing along I-481 would just lead to more suburban congestion and sprawl without growth (see: Pittsburgh).

With that being said, I do not forsee the elevate sections of I-81 being rebuilt. I honestly think building tunnels underneath the city would be prohibitively expensive. I am in favor of a more cut-and-cover approach, but with pedestrian-friendly overpasses rather than a complete rebuilding of the urban grid. Has anyone ever been to the northside of Denver? There are some very attractive examples of this in the northern suburbs. Sorry I couldn't get one complete image but if you can mentally piece the images below together you can kind of get a feel for this "new urbanism". I think the style of northside Denver along I-25 could be woven quite nicely into the urban fabric of Syracuse, especially with the similar terrain and winter weather. What do you guys think about reworking I-81?




I agree with your assessment of I-81 and concerns about re-routing traffic. The parts of the city south of downtown have been on the decline for more than a half century and the construction of an urban boulevard in place of I-81 WILL NOT lead to any widespread revitalization of the South Side of Syracuse, although a somewhat compelling argument could be made that downtown and University Hill may benefit. I do think the initial construction of I-81 hurt many neigborhoods in the city and accelerated the decline of those communities, however many other factors were at play including the riots in the 1960s (though very minor in Syracuse when compared to other cities), widespread disinvestment by businesses and middle class homeowners (of all races) and most notably the decline of Syracuse's economy and the dearth of high paying manufacturing jobs that required nothing more than a high school education and provided a ticket to a middle class lifestyle.

I do agree that the state will choose the cheapest option possible which in this case happens to be the most politically popular one: removing the highway and re-routing traffic via I-481. This is the preferred option among the area's burgeoning non-profit and government sector, including social welfare agencies, colleges, hospitals, and hoards of advocacy groups that become vociferous at the most opportune times. These special interest groups that claim to represent the majority opinion argue removing I-81 is a social justice issue that will remedy all of the social-ills and inequities plauging CNY. With virtually no corporate presence remaining in CNY, there is no counterbalance to the arguments advanced by the nonprofits. A couple of eleventh-hour compliants voiced by businessmen from the northern suburbs that operate a slew of dingy, low-budget hotels, hole-in-the-wall restaurants and truck stops is not going to impact the ultimate decision.


With the state and federal government already spending billions of dollars on the rebuilding of the Tappan Zee Bridge in the Lower Hudson Valley (where Gov. Cuomo lives) and the Peace Bridge in Buffalo, a capital project in Syracuse is merely an afterthought for the Cuomo Administration. Concerns revolving around aesthetics and economic development will be a moot point as Syracuse is not a priority investment area for the state.

I would personally prefer an underground tunnel, however I realize this will never happen. The city actually looks pretty good south of downtown from the vantage point of I-81. Recent developments on the "Hill" and the east end of downtown can be seen by travelers approaching from the south, especially at night. I was in Roanoke last week and see many similiarities between both cities, especially when comparing the topography south of Syracuse.

Last edited by RollsRoyce; 05-03-2013 at 03:06 PM..
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Old 05-03-2013, 04:45 PM
 
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I don't think I-81 is the sole reason for a decline in Syracuse, but I think it was a big factor in terms of destroying a neighborhood and in turn, pushing people into neighborhoods that may not have or flat out didn't welcome them. That in term pushed the long time residents of those neighborhoods out to outer neighborhoods or out of the city altogether. So, I think that is what people may be talking about in terms of I-81's design through the city, but I don't think it is that simple.

Even the aspect of annexation, which is hard to do in NY, could be something that people could point to in terms of population growth and to make up for the effects of urban renewal on the city's population. Manufacturing leaving cities, let alone its decline since 1979 in this country, is another factor to consider. Taxation is another thing to possibly think about.
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Old 05-03-2013, 08:04 PM
 
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Thanks for the responses! The two preceding comments contain many valid points. It could be said that Syracuse is an afterthought in the larger context of NY state, but then again, isn't essentially every city along the I-81 corridor in every state through which I-81 spans? Harrisburg is the capital of PA and it seems as if the city cannot get a cup of coffee in its own state. The cities along I-81 are a who's who of population decline or stagnation in a post-industrial American economy.

The only exception I can think of to this typology is Winchester, VA which now functions essentially as a far-flung, horse country suburb of Washington D.C. Although technically I-81 merges with I-40 before it enters the city, I think Knoxville, TN can serve as somewhat of a model of what Syracuse can be. Although the University of Tennessee is public and much larger than Syracuse University, I don't think Syracuse has yet to fully tap the potential of being a research-oriented higher education hub. But you guys are correct, I think what prevents SU from being to Syracuse what Duke is to Durham is the lack of a tax friendly environment.

I like the analogy to Roanoke. I think I-81 in that region of SW VA is instructive. Most developmental growth in the United States in the past 50 years has taken place along interstate corridors. The development of both Roanoke and Blacksburg (where VA Tech is located) is limited by the fact that I-81 doesn't go through either and you have to take controlled access spurs off of I-81 to get to both cities. Interstate 581 is a decent highway and doesn't have nearly the destructive history as I-81 through Syracuse but there is really no reason to deviate off of I-81 to go to downtown Roanoke. Their best mall is essentially at the interchange of 81 and 581. The only reason why I ever knew that Downtown Roanoke is a scenic, historic railroad hub is because my curiosity got the better of me. I don't think that is typical.

The destruction caused by I-81 can never be reversed in Syracuse only ameliorated. But Syracuse needs to take lessons from cities such as Roanoke and Harrisburg. A redeveloped I-81 can serve as an asset; SU, downtown, Carousel Center (sorry I'm old school), and the Inner Harbor (at least what could be) are destinations. I don't see the rationale behind diverting people away from it and clogging 481 and 690 in the process. Create a scenic "boulevard" if you must, as long as it is a controlled access thruway that still maintains the 1-81 designation. There is a reason why there are interstate highways despite the presence of the US routes that run parallel to them and predate them (U.S. 11 - Salina St./State St./Wolf St./Brewerton). Build it and they won't come. No one gets off of the interstate (no matter how congested) to drive down a scenic boulevard for the heck of it.
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Old 05-03-2013, 08:22 PM
 
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I think the retort to that will be that removing I-81 would allow for Syracuse to bridge the gap that it causes between Downtown Syracuse and University Hill by developing that area in a way that would continue to attract people, if not more so. That could be done in the way of more housing, "attractions" or even through institutional expansion(if not all three).

I also think there may be an environmental aspect/argument that may come up in conversation in terms of public housing literally right next to that stretch of the highway.
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Old 05-03-2013, 09:33 PM
 
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Hi, I'm a new poster on this forum.

How many cars are using I-81 to pass through the Syracuse region? | The I-81 Challenge

This blog highlights a 2010 study by NYS DOT on how much I-81 traffic is passing through the Syracuse region. I'm not aware of any follow-up studies.


"The analysis revealed that:
1. There are 44,000 total vehicles per day on I-81 south of the southern I-481 interchange (Exit 16A).
2. Of these 44,000 total vehicles, 12% (5,400 vehicles per day) are currently traveling through the region without stopping. This includes:
- 6% of the 44,000 vehicles (2,760 vehicles per day) traveling through the region on I-81.
- 5% of the 44,000 vehicles (2,020 vehicles per day) traveling through the region via I-81 and I-690 to/from the Thruway (I-90).
- 1% of the 44,000 vehicles (620 vehicles per day) traveling through the region on I-481.

These results suggest that diverting regional interstate through traffic to I-481 or other alternative interstate routes will have little impact on traffic volumes or operations on I-81 within the primary study area. Additional traffic data is likely to be collected to assist in the assessment of different options for I-81."

I, too, would prefer a tunnel, but as other posters have noted, it is unlikely to happen.
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Old 05-03-2013, 10:51 PM
 
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On its face, it would seem a tunnel would be the most aesthetically pleasing, but even a boulevard would allow for a restoration of the urban grid. I had to go to the satellite image of Syracuse for that one. Very interesting. But it now begs the question, what urban fabric exactly would be restored?

It makes no sense to completely ditch all of I-81 in Syracuse Proper for the mile or two of elevated span that needs replacing. I-81 is functional and relatively easy to upgrade from the 481 interchange up until the elevated span begins at roughly Van Buren. Why go through the whole expense of turning a grade-level controlled access highway through the low density south side into a boulevard? The Brewster/Boland complex of SU isn't going anywhere but there would still be four-lanes of traffic (two in each direction) along the Almond Street access lanes parallel to I-81 while the elevated spans are demolished and replaced with a below-grade viaduct style controlled access highway and bridges over top at Adams, Harrison, Genesee, and Fayette Streets like you see in the pictures I posted above.

What would be the purpose of restoring the grid? Infill? Infill of what? The initial plans for Destiny USA couldn't even pan out so a private developer is going to reconstruct a downtown? It doesn't make sense to raze the entire housing project between Taylor and Adams just to turn 81 into a boulevard and restore the grid. Will a developer commit to a mixed-use development or will it become a massive brownfield like you see in Atlantic City or Overtown Miami?

Would you raze the Hospital complex on the west side of 81 just to restore the grid? Just to the north of that you have the Presidential Plaza (I had friends that lived in the towers) which I concede has too much parking lot coverage but the grid could easily be restored there if there was ever an inkling to tear that entire development down; you wouldn't have to eliminate all of I-81 to do it. Once you get to Fayette St. that is where you have the ramps for the 690 interchange. Would you go through the massive expense and headache of getting rid of the interchange (thus 690) too? Completely eliminating I-81 to spawn development that is speculative in a market for which there is no pent up demand and has slow growth is nonsensical. Unless you tear down everything in between I-81 and Townsend St. and put something REALLY, REALLY compelling like an entertainment district not seen by the likes of any city the size, climate, or lack of growth of Syracuse then I don't see anymore realistic connectivity between SU and the hospitals to downtown outside of the pedestrian-friendly bridges at the streets I listed above.
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Old 05-04-2013, 07:16 AM
 
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Here is an interesting article about cities that have removed or revamped plans in regards to elevated highways: End of the Roads: When Highway Removal Works – Next City

Here are other case studies: Case studies | The I-81 Challenge
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Old 05-04-2013, 08:28 AM
 
Location: Deep in the Woods
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Very interesting topic. I'm no expert at highway design, but just as a layperson I think a good solution is to reroute traffic to 481, widen and enhance 481, and also keep a street level route that people could take "going straight" essentially through the heart of Syracuse. The sign could say " For I-81 North, Use 481 N or something similar. The downtown leg wouldn't be up to interstate standards, but would reconnect to 481 at the northern end.

Make it super scenic and polished, with a nice grass median, trees, similar to this:

Photo: Among RDC accomplishments is the scenic median along Riverside Drive, making the city entryway more appealing. - Memphis, TN | The Commercial Appeal

With no billboards and lots of aesthetic signage point to various things to do downtown (museums, restuarants, " Now Entering Historic Automobile Row , with a historic marker signifying the history, etc. It would also get people out of their cars and spending money). Make the traffic signals nice looking and the signs and lights on the road antique looking or wooden/steel etc. Anyway, just my thought. They seem to do that here with much success in the area being vibrant and bustling.
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Old 05-04-2013, 01:30 PM
 
Location: Florida
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Plans for I-81 pushing forward amid concerns from some Syracuse-area businesses | syracuse.com

If one reads between the line, I think a decision has clearly been made, I doubt re-routing traffic around the city or a tunnel is being considered. Cost is clearly the driving force, one alternative suggested in the video is something along the lines of the Bunker Hill Bridge in Boston (which spans water btw). Simply put, a viaduct with "bells and whistles". Though the Bunker Hill bridge concept is an interesting concept, I reserve judgement on that proposal (design pending). At the risk of sounding cynical, I am afraid that short-term thinking will prevail and an "iconic" structure (noted in the video) is simply the status quo.

I would perfer a tunnel built where the viaduct now stands that will allow the university hill area and downtown to merge into one another, while addressing the concerns of businesses noted in the article. Though expensive in the short-term, the long-term economic benefits would be tremendous.

Though everyone agrees that the viaduct has to go, there is concern that re-routing traffic around the city will hurt businesses, including Destiny, 7 North Street intersection, etc. It seems that Destiny officials and Senator Defrancisco are on the same page on this one.

The four firms are: AECOM USA, Inc., based in Los Angeles; Parsons Transportation Group, based in Pasadena, Calif.; Stantec Consulting Service, based in Edmonton, Canada; and STV Inc., based in Pennsylvania and New York City. All of which speak volumes, this decison has been made.
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