Syracuse I-81 project can continue, but viaduct demolition stalled

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New York Construction News staff writer

Construction can continue on Syracuse’s $2.25 billion Interstate 81 project, however, further environmental reviews must be completed before the viaduct through the city can be demolished, New York State Supreme Court Justice Gerard Neri ruled this week.

The decision was in response to a lawsuit from Renew 81 for All, a group opposed to replacing the I-81 viaduct with a grid of city streets.

The group argued the announcement of Micron building a semiconductor manufacturing plant in the Town of Clay required the State Department of Transportation to take another look at the best options for changing the aging, elevated section of I-81 through Downtown Syracuse.

In his ruling, the judge agreed, and said the environmental review was “incomplete” and he ordered the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) to account for increased traffic caused by Micron Technology’s planned chip factory in Clay.

NYSDOT approved plans to tear down the viaduct last year and awarded the first of several construction contracts in January – a $296.4 million contract with Salt City Contractors LLC, which includes Richmondville, N.Y.’s Lancaster Development and Flushing-based Tully Construction, doing business as L&T Construction, as well as D.A. Collins Construction Co., in Wilton, N.Y., and Cold Spring Construction Co., from Akron. N.Y.

Portions of I-81, which was built in the 1950s and 1960s, are deteriorating and nearing the end of their useful life. Also, sections of I-81 do not meet current standards and are experiencing high accident rates.

According to the project website “this is especially true of the 1.4-mile elevated section, or “viaduct,” near downtown Syracuse.

“The purpose of the I-81 Viaduct Project is to address the structural deficiencies and non-standard highway features in the I-81 corridor while creating an improved corridor through the City of Syracuse that meets transportation needs and provides the transportation infrastructure to support long-range planning efforts.”

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