Community Grid Plus: Expanding the I-81 Conversation Beyond the Highway

Posted on February 21, 2019

Community Grid Plus

For the better part of a decade this community has been steeped in information on the future of Interstate 81. Like all major public infrastructure projects of this stature, the debate is often polarizing. However, CenterState CEO’s efforts to reach consensus on this issue will remain futile if we allow the conversation to be confined to the two-dimensional thinking that the entirety of our community’s economic, social and transportation challenges can be addressed by a 1.4 mile stretch of highway. They cannot.

As CenterState CEO waits for the New York State Department of Transportation to release its DEIS report, it is clear that each of the proposed alternatives, as currently presented, will have both positive and adverse impacts on individual stakeholders across the region. This reality – as well as years of study and direct engagement by the board of directors, staff and I-81 Committee – has shaped CenterState CEO’s approach to more broadly advocate for a series of investments and enhancements to make the selected option work for as many of the region’s residents and businesses as possible: the Community Grid Plus.

CenterState CEO believes that the Community Grid option provides the best foundation to achieve the values set forth by CenterState CEO at the onset of the current NYSDOT design phase, while advancing the region’s economic development goals and aspirations for the future. However, there is recognition that no single solution will fully or adequately address each and every concern or opportunity surfaced to date.

The Community Grid Plus plan, overwhelmingly endorsed by CenterState CEO’s board of directors, offers 10 points of enhancement to the current Community Grid option, including recommendations to address many of the legitimate concerns we’ve heard throughout this process in order to make the Community Grid work for more people, and find common ground among a broader range of regional stakeholders.

A full list of the 10 points of enhancement can be found here. On a high level, the Community Grid Plus solution calls for:

  • A comprehensive investment in modern public transit, including bus rapid transit, in parallel with any decision on I-81.
  • More significant improvements to the I-481 corridor than those presented by NYSDOT, and urges other key enhancements, such as improvements to Bear Street in the Inner Harbor.
  • An economic mitigation fund for affected stakeholders and municipalities to prepare for the projects potential impacts on local businesses.
  • A locally-led revitalization commission to ensure the redevelopment projects are inclusive, with strong MWBE and local participation, and to encourage mixed-income projects.
  • The highest quality design consistent with its urban setting.
  • A coordinated regional approach to shift truck traffic away from towns, villages and our drinking water.
  • Revisiting the elimination of Thruway tolls in the Syracuse area, among others.

As CenterState CEO advocates for this Community Grid Plus solution, it also pledges to work cooperatively with the state, local municipalities, and affected businesses on a comprehensive solution for the region; and we also urge the NYSDOT and the Federal Highway Administration to advance this solution as quickly as possible.

The Community Grid Plus plan offered today is by no means a complete list of points of common ground. Rather, it is a renewed attempt at open dialogue, and a commitment from CenterState CEO to continue working with all stakeholders who are interested in moving beyond entrenched positions about a singular highway solution to achieve a better, long-term outcome for the region.



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