Efforts are ongoing to get bridge/grid alternative for I-81 in Syracuse

Future of 81

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) –With interstate 81 as a backdrop, some community members gathered to share why they want more than just a grid.

“The grid, it’s a great idea, but that doesn’t change the fact of the traffic doesn’t change the fact of having a turnabout at a school,” said community member Charles Garland. “It doesn’t change the fact that you have towns, businesses, industry that were built up solely around I-81.”

What Garland would like to see, is an idea that’s been shared previously – a skybridge that would also have a grid. It would also pay tribute to a prominent figure in history, and be named The Harriet Tubman Memorial Freedom Bridge.

“The beautiful thing about it, it will be 70 feet high, reaching to the north star. At night, it will be lit up, heading to our neighbor up north in Canada,” Garland explained.

Tubman’s relatives joined garland. Although they live in Auburn, they welcome this alternative.

“This bridge is going to be up and over and kind of eliminate some of the high traffic and congestion and emissions,” said Karen Johnson Walker, Tubman’s great great great grand niece.

Lanessa Owens-Chaplin is Project Counsel for the New York Civil Liberties Union and meets regularly with neighbors who live nearby the viaduct.

“We have heard complaints about children with asthma, parents with asthma and other health issues that really want this viaduct gone,” Owens-Chaplin explained.

Meanwhile supporters of the bridge option hope their alternative will be considered before a final decision is made.

Garland is a Democratic candidate for the Onondaga County Legislature’s 16th District seat. He is challenging incumbent Legislator Vernon Williams. Williams is on the Working Families Party Line and is in favor of the grid. He released the following statement:

As the current county legislature for the 16th district, I understand how important it is to listen to the concerns of the constituents that live in the communities that will impacted the most. My stance has always been clear, my constituents have been clear. Removing the viaduct is the first step to having meaningful change in a community that has been too often ignored.

To rename the skybridge- an idea, introduced by the save I-81, funded by Destiny USA and the Town of Salina business owners, to an iconic woman, leader and fighter for freedom, Harriet Tubman is a slap in the face to the Black community. What freedom does the Skybridge give this community? Harriet Tubman spent her life releasing people from bondage. Well racism looks different today. Racism is placing putting toxins in Black communities. The Skybridge only perpetuates racism for an entire community, for the convenience of a few.

It is disgraceful to use such an iconic woman and her legacy to continue to harm a community. Charles Garland is clearly not listening to the constituents in the 16th district. He has not been able to identify any benefits to this community from the Skybridge option. In fact, a simple look into the DEIS, Chapter 5, shows that the removal of the viaduct significantly reduces the traffic volume in this community from the current 90,000 cars per day to about 36,900 per day.

Charles Garlands remarks are dangerous, irresponsible, and uninformed. In his own remarks at the press conference this morning- he put the needs of the Town of Salina over the people of the 16 district. The Skybridge option under any name- will continue to pollute a Black community, divide neighborhoods by race and class, continue to concentrate poverty, and most importantly ignore the voices of the 16 district.”

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