Skip to Content
Streetsblog USA home
Streetsblog USA home
Log In
Streetsblog.net

The I-81 “Dead Zone” Is Stifling Downtown Syracuse

New York state officials are expected to decide soon whether to rebuild and widen I-81 through downtown Syracuse or tear it down and replace it with surface streets.

I-81 is a "dead zone" in downtown Syracuse. Photo: CNU
I-81 is a "dead zone" in downtown Syracuse. Photo: CNU
false

Mayor Stephanie Miner has called the I-81 corridor a "dead zone" that separates Syracuse University and its environs from downtown. University officials have said it stands in the way of school expansion. The Congress for the New Urbanism named the 1960s relic as one of its "Freeways Without Futures." Even the former New York State DOT commissioner expressed support for removing the highway. But suburban business interests and politicos are opposed to removal.

Writing for the Tri-State Transportation Campaign’s Mobilizing the Region blog, Sandy Johnston says that to boost the local economy, taking I-81 down is the clear choice.

ReThink81, a coalition of planners, residents and other local stakeholders based in Syracuse, found that replacing I-81 with a boulevard would open up at least seven acres of land for potential development with almost $140 million in market value and $5.3 million in annual taxes. In contrast, rebuilding the viaduct ultimately could cause Syracuse to lose $85 million between increased taxes, significant takings of private land and buildings and depressed property values -- as well as a reduction of more than $3.2 million in yearly tax receipts. The opportunity cost of rebuilding would amount to nearly $225 million in capital lost, independent of construction costs, while the city would forgo almost $8.7 million in annual taxes.

For decades, the I-81 viaduct has hindered the region’s overall economic growth by cutting off downtown Syracuse from University Hill and preventing development in a high-value area. The economic benefits are neither fuzzy nor hard to understand.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Greater Greater Washington on the fixes needed to get the H Street streetcar running, and Broken Sidewalk says Louisville planners should brush up on their Jane Jacobs.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog USA

Friday’s Headlines Go Back to the Future

If you liked the first Trump administration's transportation policies, you're going to love the second Trump administration's transportation policies.

July 19, 2024

Advocates Share What It Takes to Fight Highway Expansions in Court 

What does it take to sue your state DOT? Time, money, the right partners, and a little creativity, a recent survey of activists found.

July 19, 2024

Friday Video: Paris Does it Again

Come for the bike-friendly streets, but stay for adopt-a-tree program and all the car-free school roadways.

July 19, 2024

Talking Headways Podcast: IrrePLACEable

Kevin Kelley on his book Irreplaceable: How to Create Extraordinary Places that Bring People Together, and the future of downtowns.

July 18, 2024

This Heat Wave is a Car Dependency Problem

Our quickly warming planet has a unique impact on people who don't or can't drive — and we need policy action to protect their health.

July 18, 2024
See all posts