Pandemic may impact when I-81 plan will be shown to the public after Federal Highway Administration finishes its review

Future of 81

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — New York State’s draft plan endorsing the removal of I-81 through Downtown Syracuse has been submitted to the federal government for review.

Once the Federal Highway Administration finishes its review, the State DOT will have 45 days for public review and comment.

But the 45-day clock will only start once the plan, with federal input, is released publicly. That release date could very likely be impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

“We won’t be able to release the draft until we are sure that we can provide a safe environment for a large group to come in for a public hearing,” Project Director Mark Frechette, New York State DOT, tells NewsChannel 9.

Frechette says the Community Grid is still the DOT’s preferred alternative. He says already, it includes even more updates based on nearly 1,000 official comments since the plan was released in April of last year.

“We made lots of changes and many of those changes, if not all of those changes, we believe made the Community Grid a better alternative. Better solution for the community, a better solution for businesses and economic development,” Frechette says.

He will not comment on what those changes are until the federal government finishes its review of the document and the State DOT gets it back and releases it publicly.

“We’re at a point now where we’re saying, we believe this Draft Environmental Impact Statement captures everything that needs to be captured and we’re ready to take this next step,” Frechette says.

The submission to the federal government is an expected formal part of the years-long process determining what to do with the aging viaduct.

Frechette says the federal government has been involved with the project since 2013 and will continue to be part of the project through construction.

The Community Grid is expected to cost $1.9 billion to build.


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