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Schumer Advocated For Syracuse’s I-81 Project Relentlessly, Personally Calling Secretary Buttigieg For This Grant; Senators Worked Non-Stop To Highlight How I-81 Transformation Can Be A National Model For Better Transportation Policy

Funding Will Allow NYSDOT & City Of Syracuse To Invest And Enhance Quality Of Life For The Neighborhoods In The Shadow Of I-81 By Adding New Parks, Reconnected Safer Streets, Sidewalks, Bike Paths, Greenery, And More

Schumer, Gillibrand: Syracuse I-81 Transformation Is A Blueprint For Reconnecting Communities Across America

Following years of advocacy, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today delivered a historic $180,010,000 award of highly competitive federal funding for Syracuse’s transformational I-81 Viaduct Project. This award makes the NYSDOT and City of Syracuse project, I-81 Connecting Syracuse, among the first in the nation to tap the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) Neighborhood Access and Equity Program, which Schumer created in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), based on the work he and Gillibrand did creating the Reconnecting Communities program in the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Law

This massive federal investment will help ensure that, after the I-81 Viaduct comes down, neighborhoods in the shadow of the I-81 corridor like the New 15th Ward and the northside will have the modern safe complete streets, new and improved parks, greenery, and community infrastructure to have a brighter, more interconnected and dynamic future for the next generation of Syracuse residents. 

“When I became majority leader, I said I would deliver the federal investment to make the I-81 transformation a reality. Today I am proud to say a promise made is a promise kept as we deliver a whopping $180-plus million to lay the foundation for a more interconnected and dynamic future of Syracuse after the viaduct comes down,” said Senator Schumer. “When I-81 was built it cut through the heart of Syracuse, it fractured a once vibrant neighborhood and left scars of systemic inequality that are felt to this day. Federal policies are what created the concrete walls of I-81 that divided Syracuse neighborhoods, and today the federal government is stepping up to right that historical wrong. With this funding, the federal government is shining a national spotlight on Syracuse and New York State, under Governor Hochul, as leaders in addressing the legacy of highway construction dividing neighborhoods and giving the support needed so that Syracuse can be a blueprint for reconnecting communities across America.”

Schumer added, “This $180+ million is about laying the foundation for the next generation in Syracuse. It will create new modern tree-lined streets, add new parks for our families, bike paths, and new opportunity. When I negotiated the Inflation Reduction Act, I knew we needed to increase funding to the critical reconnecting communities’ initiatives, so places like Syracuse could access the robust funding needed to turn the dreams of I-81’s transformation into a reality. Today’s major award will help make Syracuse a national model for the future of reconnecting communities across America. With other major investments like Micron on the way, and more federal funding coming to Syracuse than ever before, it is becoming clearer by the day that Syracuse’s future is brighter than ever.”

“This is one of the biggest investments in the transformation of I-81 and downtown Syracuse yet, and I’m proud to have advocated hard to deliver it,” said Senator Gillibrand. “I helped lead the creation of the Reconnecting Communities Pilot and Neighborhood Access and Equity programs, and over the past few years, I’ve brought key White House officials—including Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and White House Infrastructure Coordinator Mitch Landrieu—to Syracuse to show them the enormous potential of the I-81 project. And today, all of those efforts are paying off. This $180 million in funding will promote growth, create good-paying jobs, and most importantly, build stronger, more equitable, and more livable communities on the South Side of Syracuse while ensuring that the people who live there can stay there. I’m a proud supporter of this project and I will keep fighting in Congress to deliver for Syracuse.”

“Thanks to support from the Biden-Harris Administration, we are turning the vision of a reunified Syracuse into a reality," Governor Hochul said. "The I-81 Viaduct Project will reconnect communities that a highway has divided for generations, proving that we can rebuild our infrastructure to support healthy and thriving neighborhoods. New York is setting the national model for major infrastructure projects that prioritize equity and community engagement."

This $180 million in federal funding will provide approximately $150 million to NYSDOT and $30 million to the City of Syracuse to fund elements of the Community Grid, specifically to help connect and enhance quality of life for disadvantaged communities in Syracuse to ensure this once-in-a-generation project will help transform and reconnect the communities divided by I-81. More specifically, NYSDOT and the City of Syracuse will use this funding to transform and modernize transportation infrastructure, enhance parks and greenspaces, and create new community destinations in the neighborhoods closest to and most severely impacted by the I-81 Viaduct.

The award will transform the City of Syracuse’s transportation infrastructure by funding reconstruction of existing streets like those in the New 15th Ward and other disadvantaged neighborhoods using complete street designs, including modern features that prioritize safety, comfort, and connectivity like new lighting, greenery, sidewalks, bike paths, enhanced pedestrian safety features, and improved storm sewer, and other utilities. New pedestrian and bicycle paths will allow walkers and bikers to safely traverse roads and bridges connecting the northside to Syracuse’s inner harbor, opening up a much-desired transportation avenue that enhances access for residents in one of Syracuse’s most disadvantaged neighborhoods. Funding will also be used to enhance the existing parks and greenspaces that Syracuse families enjoy like Wilson Park, reseeding existing playing fields and adding new basketball courts, a splash pad, bleachers, benches, shade trees and drinking fountains. In addition, this award will support new destinations for community members to enjoy, including a new “Linear Park” greenway connecting Roesler and Wilson parks, the new Lodi overlook with expansive views of Onondaga Lake and the surrounding region, a new “Canal District” and more.

This major award is the culmination of years of work by Schumer and Gillibrand. As majority leader, Schumer led the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act to passage with projects like Syracuse’s at the top of mind, delivering $11.5 billion in federal highway funding to help New York State finally make long overdue transportation projects a reality. After introducing the Reconnecting Communities Act in the Senate, Schumer and Gillibrand created and delivered the Reconnecting Communities Program in the bipartisan Infrastructure Law, specifically to help communities, like Syracuse, remove barriers like old highways and create more connected communities. Last February, Syracuse became one of the first communities to receive a $500,000 planning grant in the historic first year of the $1 billion-dollar Reconnecting Communities Program, which helped prepare the community to apply and receive well over one hundred million in federal funding awarded today.

At Schumer’s urging when negotiating the Inflation Reduction Act, he was able to create the Neighborhood Access and Equity Grant Program – a program similar to Reconnecting Communities - funded at $3.2 billion. Today’s funding comes from this program and is a direct result of Schumer’s efforts to increase funding for reconnecting communities’ initiatives in the IRA so that places like Syracuse could have the robust federal resources they need to make these transformational projects a reality. Schumer wrote and personally called Secretary Buttigieg multiple times to advocate for Syracuse’s I-81 projects selection for federal funding. Thanks to Schumer efforts, along with Senator Gillibrand’s efforts, Syracuse received the 3rd largest grant in the country for the Neighborhood Access and Equity Grant Program.

“This is another historic win for Syracuse and Central New York that will help us realize the vision of a Community Grid built for people. With Majority Leader Schumer’s leadership, New York State Department of Transportation and the City of Syracuse will be better able to improve mobility, rebuild city infrastructure, improve transportation, and strengthen neighborhoods, parks and public spaces. I thank President Biden for committing to the Reconnecting Communities program and recognizing the importance of the I-81 project. And I credit Majority Leader Schumer and Senator Gillibrand for championing Syracuse for Reconnecting Communities funding. We look forward to continuing our work with Governor Hochul, Transportation Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez and their DOT team in maximizing the positive impact of the Community Grid for generations to come,” said Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh.

“Just days after I had the honor of joining my friend Senator Schumer at the State of the Union, it is with great joy that I received news that the Federal government will participate in the granting of well over one hundred million dollars to help revitalize Syracuse’s 15th ward, northside, and other neighborhoods wounded by I-81. This makeover will give residents and minorities an additional sense of pride in their neighborhoods and some renewed hope of expanding their entrepreneurial presence into downtown Syracuse. These grant monies will greatly assist in the creation of facilities for to be used by future generations of families, friends, neighbors and children across this community, including new walking and biking paths which we have not been afforded until now. If I have learned one thing over the years, it’s that opportunities like this don’t come our way too often, making this grant a shining example of how much we can succeed when we work together. I thank Senator Schumer, Senator Gillibrand and our other elected officials for their leadership, their friendship, and the hard work they put in to make this possible,” said former Syracuse Common Council President Van Robinson.

Schumer and Gillibrand have a long history advocating for the transformation of I-81. Just this past week, Schumer brought Van Robinson, a Syracuse trailblazer and one of the earliest advocates for tearing down I-81, to President Biden’s State of the Union address, to highlight their decades of work together on projects to reconnect and invest in Syracuse’s underserved communities. Last year, Schumer and Gillibrand joined Governor Hochul to break ground on the transformational I-81 Viaduct Project. In June 2021 following their invitation, the senators brought USDOT Secretary Buttigieg to Syracuse to visit I-81. During the visit they highlighted the importance of hiring local, and working together the senators were able to secure a local hire program in the bipartisan Infrastructure Law, a top priority for Syracuse advocates, helping provide training and new, high-quality job opportunities to disadvantaged workers from the neighborhoods and communities disproportionally impacted by the legacy of highway construction.

President Biden has been the leading advocate for investing in infrastructure to reconnect communities starting in his American Jobs Plan, which directly cited Syracuse’s I-81 as an example of building a more equitable future for transportation infrastructure. The senators applaud President Biden for delivering on his promises to help fund the reconnecting of communities like Syracuse’s and, thanks to the legislation, they have worked on together this long-held dream for Central NY is one step closer to becoming a reality.