I-81 in Syracuse named one of the worst urban highways in the country

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SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — The status and future of the deteriorating Interstate 81 in Syracuse has long been a topic of discussion. And now, that discussion has reached a nation-wide audience. 

The Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) has released a list compiling the 15 worst urban-highways in the country, and I-81 has made the list. 

The Syracuse highway was selected by a committee based on the following criteria: the age and state of the highway, the quality of alternative boulevard or street design, the feasibility of removal, community support for removal, existing political momentum, redevelopment opportunities, potential cost savings, and potential to improve access to opportunity for underserved communities. 

One of the main reasons for making this list is the barrier the CNU believes these highways create in hurting “black and brown Americans”. 

“As a key part of America’s reckoning with institutional racism, there is an urgent need to heal the raw wounds created by the bulldozers that cleared the way for urban freeways,” said Rick Cole, CNU’s new Executive Director. “In my hometown of Pasadena, the recent success of the 60-year battle to stop the extension of the 710 Freeway opens the way to restore 67 acres to the heart of our city to build affordable housing as part of righting past wrongs and creating future community value.” 

However, there are plans on renovating I-81. Governor Andrew Cuomo has allotted $800 million to rework the interstate.  

“For years we have been working on a solution to transform the obsolete and poorly designed I-81 viaduct in Syracuse into a modern transportation corridor, and this year’s budget is making it a reality,” said the governor in an April statement.

“We’ve listened to the community, addressed concerns related to the project and put our best plan forward; now it is time for action. We look forward to that historic day when the first shovel breaks ground on this important project,” Cuomo said. 

The project also has its detractors. Mainly local businesses close to the current stretch of the highway that would be most affected by any redirection of traffic. 

Below is a complete list of highways selected by the CNU in no particular order: 

  • The Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (Interstate 278), New York, NY 
  • Claiborne Expressway (Interstate 10), New Orleans, LA 
  • Inner Loop North, Rochester, NY 
  • Interstate 244, Tulsa, OK 
  • Interstate 275, Tampa, FL 
  • Interstate 345, Dallas, TX 
  • Interstate 35, Austin, TX 
  • Interstate 35, Duluth, MN 
  • Interstate 5, Seattle, WA 
  • Interstate 81, Syracuse, NY 
  • Interstate 980, Oakland CA 
  • Kensington Expressway (NY Route 33), Buffalo, NY 
  • North Loop (Interstate 35/70), Kansas City, MO 
  • Scajaquada Expressway (NY Route 198), Buffalo, NY 
  • The Great Highway, San Francisco, CA 

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