I-81 Workgroup Presents Findings, Recommendations
Any decision on the future of I-81 will significantly impact the Syracuse University campus and the University Hill, says a report by a University I-81 workgroup charged by Chancellor Kent Syverud. In particular, the report says it is vital for the University and neighboring institutions to pursue common objectives and outcomes that will benefit the University Hill community as a whole, especially focusing on the long-term effects on pedestrian and vehicle traffic to and from the Hill.
The five-person Chancellor’s Workgroup on I-81, chaired by School of Architecture Dean Michael Speaks, began its task in mid-April and recently submitted a 30-page report to Chancellor Syverud. The full work group report can be viewed here.
In his original charge to the committee, the Chancellor emphasized that the workgroup’s purpose was not to study the design alternatives being considered by New York State or ideas being presented by other interested parties, but rather to help him “better assess the major issues surrounding the I-81 replacement and therefore make decisions that are in the best interest of the University, both internally and externally.”
Specifically, the Chancellor directed the workgroup members to: 1) Outline key considerations and impacts on the University’s daily operations, including access to campus; attendance at athletics or other special events at the Carrier Dome; and the logistics of moving employees, students, equipment and supplies across campus and to destinations in the community. 2) Outline long-term implications on campus planning, including campus design and environment; real estate holdings; capital projects currently under development; and potential changes to the University’s planned institutional districts. 3) Describe the long-term implications on the community, including quality of life for living and working in the city; economic development; and regional planning. 4) Recommend key design objectives and considerations that address these issues.
Key findings of the workgroup can be found in the Executive Summary on pages 3-4 of the report, while the workgroup’s recommendations to the Chancellor can be found on pages 25-28.
At the Chancellor’s direction, the workgroup will reconvene at the start of the fall semester to host a campus open forum to solicit input on I-81 from students, faculty and staff.
“Whatever I-81 solution is ultimately decided upon, the impact on the city, on Syracuse University and the region will be profound,” says Speaks. “Among the least-discussed, but most important, issues related to the I-81 decision will be planning for and mitigating the effects of the construction phase, which once underway is expected to continue for five or more years.”
In addition to Speaks, members of the Chancellor’s Workgroup on I-81 are Colleen Bench, assistant vice president in the Division of Student Affairs and head of the SU Parents Office; Allan Breese, director of business and facilities maintenance services; Chris Johnson, professor and director of the Environmental Engineering Program in the L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science; and Burak Kazaz, the Laura J. and L. Douglas Meredith Professor of Teaching Excellence, associate professor of supply chain management and director of the H.H. Franklin Center for Supply Chain Management in the Martin J. Whitman School of Management.
Over the course of two and a half months, the workgroup gathered information about the campus and surrounding community, daily campus operations and future planning efforts that would be impacted by the decision to replace the current I-81 highway; interviewed University officials from the Department of Athletics, the Office of Parking and Transit Services and the Office of Campus Planning, Design and Construction to review the transportation needs of the University community; and interviewed transportation planners and officials from the Syracuse Metropolitan Transportation Council and the New York State Department of Transportation to better understand the decision-making process in replacing I-81.