SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) – The I-81 Viaduct potentially being torn down has different viewpoints on whether or not this will be a good or bad thing for the city. A group Renewal 81 which consists of former Syracuse Police Chief Frank Fowler and Onondaga County Legislator Charles Garland.
One of Renewal 81 allegations is tearing down the viaduct will affect Pioneer Homes residents who live in the shadow of the viaduct. Because residents live close to the viaduct it being brought down to street level concerns Garland it will bring increased traffic to Pioneer Homes residents. Garlands says there’s evidence from the Draft Environmental Impact Statement it will cause more pollutants in urban areas which will then in turn affect the health of many African Americans.
” They’re going to put it in the two poorest African American census tracks,” said Garland. “The two poorest tracks that have the highest rates of respiratory illness, asthma, covid morbidities… ”
But Syracuse Professor of Environmental Engineering Cliff Davidson doesn’t think pollution will increase in downtown areas because the traffic will go to I-481 which will become a bypass for carrying faster traffic.
” It doesn’t go through neighborhoods that are as dense as say the downtown area is,” said Davidson. “So I think this is going to decrease the pollutant level that are downtown because there will be less traffic downtown. It will be going around the city.”
While Garland thinks tearing down the viaduct will be a net negative Davidson thinks it will be a net benefit.
“I think reducing the traffic in those neighborhoods is more important so that there’s a net benefit compared to pollutants that will be emitted going around the city,” said Davidson.
There are two phases of the I-81 construction project. The first phase which begins now is turning I-481 the loop on the eastern side of Syracuse into the new I81. Then the second phase which would begin in 2026 is tearing down the viaduct. While Judge Gerry Neri has asked the New York State Department of Transportation to review if tearing down the viaduct will meet environmental standards preliminary work can continue on I-481.