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Syracuse: Tearing Down the Viaduct is No Easy Task

Continuing its 'Cities Project' and its focus on roads and motor vehicles, NPR goes to Syracuse, N.Y. to report on a 1.4 mile stretch of elevated Interstate 81 that runs through the heart of the city, and efforts to tear it down, maybe.
July 26, 2012, 5am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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More than just a physical barrier, the Viaduct, as the aging, elevated freeway is known locally, is an economic, social and racial barrier.

Zack Seward of the Public Radio Recording Project, Innovation Trail, explains to NPR senior host Robert Siegel that it divides the community along economic and racial lines.

Seward takes Siegel to one of New York's first public housing projects, the low-rise Pioneer Homes. Constructing I-81 "gutted this predominantly African-American neighborhood." Seward interviews 40-year resident Hazel Miller who lives 100 ft. from the freeway, tractor-trailer trucks are heard in the distance.

"Syracuse Common Council President Van Robinson says replacing the viaduct with a street-level boulevard would breathe life into the city's withered urban core. He has long seen the viaduct as a barrier that separates the haves from the have-nots."

"The state's transportation department is in the early stages of a planning process called the I-81 Challenge. Planners recently gauged public opinion on three basic options":

  • Keep the viaduct and update it to current standards
  • Tear it down and build a sunken roadway
  • Tear it down and build a boulevard

Yet, as a testament to the difficulty of making any kind of change, what does Hazel Miller have to say about these choices?

"She would rather keep the viaduct as is. Miller is not confident that what might come next will be any better."

"I don't know how wide that [proposed] boulevard is going to be, but I know [there] wouldn't be as many tractor-trailer trucks and stuff like that going over," she says.

Full Story:
Published on Tuesday, July 24, 2012 in NPR:All Things Considered
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