(WSYR-TV) — Infrastructure has been a hot button topic across the country as well as here in Central New York. Well, with the state passing the 2023 budget, Governor Kathy Hochul has announced a $32.8 billion plan to reinforce state roads and highways.
$1.1 billion of that money will go towards the construction of the community grid in Syracuse for I-81. Already highlighted by President Biden in his infostructure plan, the grid will replace the elevated downtown viaduct, upgrade portions of I-481 and redesign that as part of the new I-81.
“The project will reconnect neighborhoods severed by construction of the original interstate and rejuvenate the downtown area with the construction of safe pedestrian and bicycle access for users of all ages and abilities,” a press release announcing the money noted.
The plans for I-81 have been hotly debated for the last couple of years with proponents saying the current version of the interstate has divided the community and hurt minorities in Syracuse. Many who are opposed say that moving I-81 could hurt surrounding businesses who rely on the current location of the highway to drive business.
Plans have also changed over the past few months in regard to certain aspects of the design. The State Department of Transportation has decided to move the I-81’s replacement roundabout on Syracuse’s Southside from near Dr. King Elementary and MLK to Van Buren Street after pushback from the community.
The changes were made to the design as part of the Final Environmental Impact Statement, which was submitted to the federal government for review earlyer this year.
Statewide the new transportation plan hopes to reconnect neighborhoods and facilitate regional economic growth, while creating thousands of new jobs.
“The adoption of this extraordinary capital plan sends a strong signal that New York is building back stronger than ever from the depths of the pandemic,” Governor Hochul said. “With this blueprint, we will give communities the infrastructure they need to unleash their full potential, enhancing connectivity, supporting transportation alternatives, and correcting the injustices of the past. I applaud Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins and Speaker Heastie for their help in getting this done.”
Besides the work on I-81, highlights of the plan include:
- Revitalizing the South Bronx by Reconstructing the Bruckner Sheridan Interchange at Hunts Point (New York City Region) – This project, currently in construction by the New York State Department of Transportation, will transform neighborhoods in the South Bronx by correcting the planning mistakes of the past by prioritizing health and safety. The construction of the new highway interchange; entrance and exit ramps; and rehabilitation of the Bruckner Viaduct will reduce commercial truck traffic in local residential areas; improve mobility, operations and safety; and mitigate poor air quality and harmful emissions in the South Bronx, one of the communities with the highest asthma rates in the nation. This project will also support the sustained growth of the Hunts Point Food Distribution Center, which provides up to 60 percent of the produce, meat and fish consumed by New York City residents and visitors, by providing direct access to the campus. The Hunts Point Distribution Center employs more than 6,000 workers. In addition, the project will construct a new 1.5-mile shared-use path providing a connection to the 138th Street bike path heading to Randall’s Island, Manhattan and Bronx River Greenway. The enacted budget includes $550 million toward the final phase of construction. All phases of this project are scheduled to be completed in the fall of 2025.
- Reconfiguring the Oakdale Merge (Long Island Region) – To alleviate congestion where Sunrise Highway (Route 27), Montauk Highway (Route 27A) and other roadways converge, the State has committed $30 million to begin the federally required environmental review process for reconfiguring the Oakdale Merge in Suffolk County. The merge can no longer accommodate the approximately 126,000 vehicles that traverse the area daily and reducing recurring delays will mitigate harmful emissions impacting adjacent communities and improve quality of life for Long Island commuters.
- Covering a Portion of the Cross-Bronx Expressway (New York City Region) – In partnership with New York City, the new State capital plan includes resources to begin a study which will assess the feasibility of decking sections of the Cross Bronx Expressway. The assessment will consider alternatives for reconnecting communities severed by construction of the viaduct to create new open public spaces, enhance bicycle and pedestrian safety along local streets, and reduce the harmful impacts of noise, air and heat pollution adjacent to the Expressway. This assessment represents a critical step toward removing unjust physical and economic barriers to residents of the Bronx.
- Converting the Route 17 corridor in Orange and Sullivan Counties (Mid-Hudson Region) – Landmark investments in the Mid-Hudson Valley have resulted in the expansion of Woodbury Common and the construction of Legoland and Resorts World Catskills Casino. Over the past several years, projects have been completed by the Department of Transportation to further upgrade sections of Route 17, including reconstruction of the interchange at Exit 131, where Route 17 meets Interstate 87 and Route 32 (Woodbury Common) and reconstruction of Exits 122 and 125 (Legoland) to meet interstate standards. Up to $1 billion of the capital plan will be used to accelerate the conversion of the Route 17 corridor in Orange and Sullivan counties to Interstate 86, fueling transformative levels of economic growth in the region and improving quality of life by alleviating congestion.
- Raising the Inner Loop freeway in the City of Rochester (Finger Lakes Region) – The State has committed up to $100 million in the new capital plan toward raising the Inner Loop North freeway in the City of Rochester. This new phase builds upon the successful completion of the Inner Loop East project administered by the City of Rochester in 2017, which raised and reconnected a 2/3 mile below-grade expressway into an at-grade boulevard. The new Inner Loop North project will reconnect several separated communities within downtown Rochester; provide direct links to the Genesee River and the High Falls District; connect and expand upon the investments from the ROC the Riverway program; promote connectivity; create new world-class greenspaces; and facilitate opportunities for economic development, including new infill development.
- Restoring the Majestic Humboldt Parkway in the City of Buffalo (Western New York Region) – The new transportation capital plan includes up to $1 billion to reconnect the east-west neighborhoods across the depressed section of the Kensington Expressway corridor and re-establish the green space originally provided by Humboldt Parkway without compromising the long-term capacity of the important regional transportation link provided by the expressway. The existing Expressway is critical to the region and has both operational and structural deficiencies that require significant investment to address. This project will promote a community-based approach to restoring the historical and cultural significance of this corridor severed by construction in 1958.
- Replacing the Livingston Avenue Railroad Bridge (Capital Region) – The Livingston Avenue railroad bridge provides a critical link for passenger rail service from the Northeast Corridor to Albany-Rensselaer. This new transportation plan includes up to $400 million to replace the existing, Civil War-era bridge with a new, modern structure capable of supporting higher-speed passenger rail, freight rail, maritime transport, and bicycle-pedestrian access.