Why Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh believes I-81 community grid is best for Auburn, CNY

There is universal agreement that the Interstate 81 project in Syracuse is a once-in-a-generation opportunity. But there isn’t consensus on whether the existing viaduct should be rebuilt, replaced with a street-level community grid or a tunnel.

While some elected officials opt to not endorse any of the alternatives, at least publicly, one leader has thrown his support behind the community grid.

Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh announced he favored the community grid option during the 2017 campaign. After he was elected mayor, he reaffirmed his support of replacing the aging viaduct with a street-level grid.

With the grid, Interstate 481 would become I-81 for through traffic. The viaduct would be torn down and the streets in the area of the elevated highway, such as Almond Street, would be improved.

The community grid is the least expensive of the three alternatives. The last estimate showed replacing the viaduct with a grid would cost $1.3 billion. Rebuilding the viaduct would cost $1.7 billion. Installing a tunnel with street-level improvements, the so-called “hybrid” option, would cost $3.6 billion.

During his campaign and since becoming mayor in 2018, Walsh has advocated for the community grid because he believes it’s not only the best option for Syracuse, but it’s the best alternative for central New York.

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