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Last Month, Senator Huddled With Sec. Buttigieg To Ensure Syracuse’s I-81 Was On Fast Track To Be Approved And Community Concerns From Housing To Environmental Needs Would Be Addressed

Now Schumer Says Final EIS For Syracuse’s I-81 Is Expected Tomorrow

Schumer: Fed Greenlight En Route For I-81

Following his visit to Syracuse last month to ensure the I-81 project stayed on track, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer today announced that I-81’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), will be released tomorrow and officially published Friday. Schumer personally spoke to USDOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg last month to ensure the I-81 project would continue to move with all due speed and ensure community concerns would be fully addressed. Schumer said, the next and final phase the Record of Decision, can be expected as early as June, which pending no delays would finally allow for shovels to break ground on Syracuse’s long awaited downtown transformation.

“Syracuse lace up your work boots and get ready, because the fed greenlight is coming soon for hundreds of good paying construction jobs and the transformation of I-81 to finally begin as soon as this summer,” said Senator Schumer. “Last month when I spoke to Secretary Buttigieg I made it clear that it is essential that the EIS move quickly, be full, comprehensive and address all the community’s concerns to ensure the success of this project. Tomorrow we will have the Final EIS, this summer the ROD, and then lots of J-O-B’s.”

Schumer said that once the Final EIS is published Friday it 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 which pending no delays would be expected in June.

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 summer.

Today’s news comes on the heels of Schumer announcing last month 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.