Access Syracuse Plan Could be the Solution we Need

Letter originally published here.

To the Editor:

Last week, Central New York’s delegation in Albany showed strong leadership by urging the state Department of Transportation to fully explore a newly proposed tunnel-boulevard hybrid plan as a solution for Interstate 81. We believe the DOT must listen to our representatives and explore the plan for further discussion, which could serve to unite the various goals of all I-81 stakeholders.

Since forming nearly a year ago, has called for an I-81 solution that will work best for the entire community. The Access Syracuse Plan, a tunnel-boulevard hybrid, may be the consensus solution our community has been searching for. While the plan is in its infancy and still requires discussion and feedback from the community to iron out details and determine costs, we believe the plan’s principal elements will suit our region well and fulfill all of the goals of the I-81 project. As Sen. Chuck Schumer has said, this project demands big thinking and community consensus to achieve its goals.

Replacing the elevated portion of I-81 and the flyover ramps at I-690 with a beautifully landscaped boulevard and a hidden tunnel would greatly improve the area’s appearance and remove perceived divisions between area neighborhoods. The plan would also greatly improve connectivity between the University Hill area and downtown while maintaining I-81’s crucial interstate highway designation.

The Access Syracuse plan would preserve the street grid better than any other option currently being considered, impacting far fewer cross-streets than any of the boulevard-only or tunnel-only options examined by the state Department of Transportation. It would keep traffic flowing into and throughout downtown and keep it easy for Central New Yorkers to get where they need to go. This would be great for the area’s workers, visitors and business owners.

The Access Syracuse boulevard could be designed to include bike lanes and sidewalks that will keep cars, pedestrians and bicyclists moving in harmony and able to navigate downtown with greater ease and safety.

We have been encouraged by the reaction Access Syracuse has received from the bipartisan group of lawmakers who have called for further exploration of the idea. looks forward to meeting with community groups, residents and elected officials to discuss how all of us can refine and improve the plan to truly make this a community-driven solution.

Access Syracuse is an ambitious plan that could be the answer to I-81. The DOT needs to listen to our leaders, fully consider the plan and allow for the community to provide its feedback.

Carmen Emmi
Save81 Member