Access Syracuse Plan Will Save Buildings From Demolition

Letter originally published here.

To the Editor:

We read with interest the July 29 Post-Standard article about a local group’s efforts to identify properties that might be demolished to make way for one of the I-81 options. While interesting, it was not as informative as it could be considering the group explored only the most disruptive of the options on the table.

The DOT responded by noting that this analysis was not a DOT product and repeated the agency’s view that it is too soon to know what properties would be razed. In any event, we believe it would be instructive to compare this view of the projected impact with that of’s “Access Syracuse” tunnel-boulevard hybrid proposal.

Right off the top, roughly a third of the buildings affected in this local group’s analysis would result from the DOT’s plan to connect the long-missing movements between I-690 and I-81. But these impacts are a part every option the DOT is considering, not just the viaduct options. And there may well be better and less disruptive ways to make this connection.

Additionally, none of the other buildings shown on this plan would have to be demolished if the Access Syracuse plan is adopted. Access Syracuse proposes to access I-690 by way of a surface-level boulevard, meaning that none of the land-hungry, high-flying access ramps required by all of the DOT’s viaduct and tunnel options would be required.

And under the Access Syracuse plan, the pedestrian-friendly boulevard desired by many could actually become a reality. By contrast, in all of the DOT’s boulevard-only options, 70,000 vehicles per day would flood downtown Syracuse streets, resulting in greatly increased traffic congestion, fuel consumption, air pollution and noise pollution, and worse conditions for pedestrians. For perspective, consider Queens Boulevard in New York: 12 lanes of pavement, carrying 40,000 vehicles per day.

Because the Access Syracuse plan is a hybrid solution that’s designed to preserve the best aspects of all of the other options. The tunnel aspect would preserve I-81’s vital function of providing access into and through the entire community, particularly downtown Syracuse. The boulevard above it would affect far fewer cross streets than any of the other options, including the DOT boulevard options. It would truly connect and reconnect the streets of downtown Syracuse and create a pedestrian-friendly environment.

And while Access Syracuse may not be the least expensive plan, because it is a hybrid solution, it would not cost as much as any of the DOT’s previously explored tunnel-only options.

This is our community, and our community will live with the outcome of the I-81 dialogue for as many as 75 years into the future. We only have one opportunity to do this job right. We owe it to those who come after us to fully explore and evaluate the Access Syracuse plan. has said from the beginning that our goal is not to support any of the options previously presented, but to work with the community to find the best solution. At the same time, we strongly believe that eliminating I-81 from the heart of the community would cripple our already fragile economy. 

For this reason, we have searched for a better idea, and we believe Access Syracuse is that idea. Of course, there still may even be better ideas yet out there. Together, we need to seek them out and fully evaluate them.

Mark Nicotra and Tony Mangano members