AFTER HUDDLE WITH BUTTIGIEG, SCHUMER ANNOUNCES I-81 CONSTRUCTION IS ON THE FAST-TRACK WITH A CRITICAL APPROVAL OFFICIALLY IMMINENT; SENATOR PUSHES FOR NEXT PHASE, CITES BILLIONS FROM BIPARTISAN INFRASTRUCTURE LAW THAT 81 PROJECT & COMMUNITY CAN TAP
Schumer Just Talked With Sec. Buttigieg About Syracuse & Says I-81’s Biggest Hurdle, The Essential Environmental Impact Statement, Will Be Approved Within Weeks & That Shovels & Hard Hats Are Not Far Behind
Schumer Cited Billions From Bipartisan Infrastructure & Jobs Law That Will Help Keep Fed Funds For 81 Revamp Flowing To ‘Cuse Once Shovels Get In Ground; Also Says Buttigieg Is Committed To Addressing Community Concerns From Housing To Environmental Needs
Schumer: Feds Are Hitting The Gas On I-81 With A Now Imminent Green Light & Billions In Fed Funds Right Behind
With a green traffic light in hand, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer today revealed that following a personal call with USDOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg, that I-81’s most critical approval, the project’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), will officially be released within weeks and without question. Schumer also said, the next and final phase before shovels break the ground, is also on the fast track for approval this year.
“Syracuse put on your hard hats and get ready, because we are in the homestretch for the transformation of I-81 to finally begin. The feds are hitting the gas on this project with a now imminent green light and federal dollars close behind,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. “I made it clear to Secretary Buttigieg that it is essential that the imminent EIS be full, comprehensive and address all the community’s concerns to ensure the success of this project, and I am glad to hear that this final step will be ready in a matter of weeks. Once this happens, the jobs can start flowing and so can the federal funds because we made key programs more robust in the bipartisan infrastructure bill, like Reconnecting Communities and the Highway Trust Fund, with Syracuse in mind.”
Schumer said that approval of the EIS release will trigger a 30 day public comment period follow by what’s called a Record of Decision (ROD) – the final greenlight for the project to begin. Schumer, today, said now is the time for all of these things to move ASAP, and emphasized on the call with Secretary Buttigieg, that it is imperative that all community and environmental concerns be fully addressed and that the USDOT work with lightning speed to release funding from the bipartisan infrastructure law – including the Highway Trust Fund and Reconnecting Communities Program, which was inspired by the I-81 project when Schumer helped write the legislation.
Regarding today’s news of imminent approval, Schumer explained that large federal-aid transportation projects that will have significant impacts, like Syracuse’s I-81, are required to conduct an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that spells out the breadth and depth of the project as part of federal regulations. Schumer said that the final EIS is then circulated and the Federal Highway Administration will issue the Record of Decision (ROD) – which is the final step before Syracuse’s I-81 project can fully begin and which Schumer says is now officially expected this spring.
“As when it comes to that last and final step, the Record of Decision, I explained to Secretary Buttigieg that we must fast-track this final phase, too,” Schumer added.
Today’s news comes on the heels of Schumer announcing last week that he has secured over $4 million for critical local projects in Syracuse, including $300,000 for the Syracuse Build initiative to train Syracuse youth for I-81 construction jobs. Schumer explained that with construction now set to begin soon, this I-81 construction job training will be key to helping young people enter the labor market and start good-paying careers in construction.
Schumer has been a vociferous advocate for the redevelopment of Syracuse’s I-81. Last year, he brought Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to Syracuse to visit I-81 and to push for the use of a local hire program to connect disadvantaged workers to construction jobs created by the I-81 project. A local hire program was eventually included in the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs law. New York State will be one of the first users in the nation of the local hire program, utilizing the new authorities to provide local hire opportunities on the I-81 redevelopment as intended by Schumer.
The transformation of I-81 in Syracuse could also benefit from several other programs included in the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs law.
This includes $11.5 billion for New York State in new highway funding and $7.5 billion in new funding for the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) competitive grant program (formerly known as BUILD and TIGER), which I-81 will be eligible for under Schumer’s planning. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs law also creates the Reconnecting Communities Program, a first of its kind program dedicated to helping advance projects like the transformation of Syracuse’s I-81 into a community grid, investing $1 billion in efforts such as construction, planning, and community engagement to expand economic opportunity and address environmental hazards like air pollution in communities across New York and the country. This new program was inspired by the Reconnecting Communities Act, which Schumer and Gillibrand led last year to provide federal investment to reconnect and revitalize areas that were harmed by the disruptive construction of highways through neighborhoods. President Biden included the Reconnecting Communities proposal in his American Jobs Plan, directly mentioning Syracuse’s I-81 as an example of a project that would aim to reconnect neighborhoods cut off by historic investments.
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