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Syracuse is contemplating removing the elevated portion of Interstate 81 that runs straight through the city for much the same reasons Rochester wants to get rid of the Inner Loop. The Post-Standard reports the highway divides the city and creates barriers to development:

The 1.4 miles of I-81 that splits Syracuse’s downtown from the University Hill will reach the end of its useful life in 2017.


The ideas include leaving it alone, rebuilding it in its current state, burying the lanes in a tunnel, or creating a boulevard running through the city.

In the 1920s, former governor Horace White, who had Syracuse roots, warned against building elevated railroads, a system that eventually led to the construction of an elevated I-81:

“In my humble opinion, the proposed elevated plan … would mean the infliction of another monstrosity upon our home for a time beyond calculation. Of course, … elevation … would doubtless be the cheapest, the most expeditious, the easiest in the matter of engineering work for the railroads, but it would be like ripping a savage septic wound across a human face — likely to infect the whole body, sure to ruin its appearance.

“It would mean that the city would be divided into sections, property would be seriously damaged, the environs would be marred and disfigured, the public health and comfort would be endangered and our taxes would be increased by depreciated assessments.

City of Rochester Communications Bureau

He could also have been talking about the Inner Loop, for which Rochester razed buildings and rearranged neighborhoods. The sunken highway is now considered a noose around the neck of downtown. Nowhere is the strangulation more evident than the East/Union corridor, where the flow of the East End is interrupted and surface parking lots and backs of buildings line the highway.

Rochester’s mayor submitted legislation to City Council this month to further study the economic impact of filling in the eastern portion of the Inner Loop. Preliminary estimates show nine acres of land would be available for development than could result in more than $120 million of private investment. Getting more finely-tuned information about the impact of raising the highway is important.

Links of the Day:

The state is laying out plans to revamp the 390/490 Interchange.

– This is sure to go over well. Not. New York State lawmakers are scheming for a pay raise.

– Rochester City Hall is planning a big crackdown on convenience stores, which have proliferated in recent years.

– The Buffalo Bills are being urged to see the light on blackouts.

– Niagara Falls desperately needs the money the Senecas are withholding from the city because of a dispute with the state over racetrack video slots.

– Here are some tips to keep your kid safe this summer. Very, very safe.

3 Responses to If Only We Knew Then…

  1. Hind sight is always 20/20. Having the courage to correct a mistake, and to bite the bullet and take the immediate hurt, ie expenses, for future healing, is always the sign of a strong community with good leaders.

  2. The post-War transportation lobby was unstoppable. The combination of the auto and truck transportation industries, the highway designers and constructors as well as the construction materials supply lobbies created a frenzie of unbridled X-Way projects that destroyed many fragile low-density cities like Rochester, Syracuse and other places like Binghamton and White Plains.

    No R.O.W. was thought to be sacred, that is unless powerful local real estate developers had other plans for the land that trumped the corridor’s use like they did with the prime thruway corridor that could have come in along the current 490 path and cut to the west using an expanded B-H-T-L. Rd. corridor above Jefferson Rd., to proceed westward to the Leroy 490 path linking up around south of the airport & Scottsville Rd. to Ballantine thru Chili.

    That got stopped by the prospects of a large apartment house project intitially called College Complex.

    Instead we got the T-way pushed way south of downtown and later the hypotenuse 490 paths in and out of downtown with that god-awful Can of Worms and a northern Loop section so you could get over to Kodak Tower & Park.

    Access off the T-Way to downtown could have been a simple drop chain from it to about where the 390 crosses thru S. Brighton now near W. Henrietta @ BHTL Rd. (the old Genesee X-way corridor) as an urban bouldevard, not a raised/lowered or buried X-way.

    The substantial percentage of use of valuable downtown land for X-way R.O.W.’s was a major factor in why it never developed a blended density residential expansion outward into the surrounding neighborhoods like lower Park and Monroe Ave.

    I heard one planning official who will go un-named as being designed by transportation planners while on the john.

  3. July 9, 2012 at 2:31 pm Kevin Yost responds:

    The traffic on I-81 running through Syracuse should be rerouted to I-481, which circumvents the “Salt City” to the east, with each end at I-81 north and south of the city. However, just as I-81 bisects that city and its downtown north and south, so too does I-690 east and west, both expressways, therefore quadrasecting Syracuse and its downtown. This must be rerouted from Solvay west of Syracuse to the 81/481 interchange at the southern suburb of Nedrow.

    Also, just as we are considering removing or raising our Inner Loop, Buffalo is considering doing the same with their equivalent, the Kenington-King expressway on the east and the Scajacquda on the north, making them either parkways or boulevards or covering the former. People there have also been advocating removing I-190 along the Niagara River in the city limits to the west and taking down the Skyway.

    Also, in a similar situation to I-81 in Syracuse and the issues created by the north-south I-65 that cuts through and destroyed Indianapolis, featured in a PBS documentary.

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