In The News

Back to all news

Experts, advocates question logic of using Micron to keep the I-81 viaduct standing

As Featured On:

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Local and state leaders are predicting that hundreds of thousands of people will come to Central New York thanks to Micron. Those estimates factored into a State Supreme Court Judge’s decision to put the brakes on plans to bring down the I-81 viaduct that cuts through the heart of the City of Syracuse.

Judge Gerard Neri ruled Monday that while the State DOT can move forward with contracts and construction in the first 3 phases of the I-81 project, which starts with changes to I-481, nothing can happen to the viaduct until the state updates its Environmental Impact Statement to include three things. The first is how air pollution over I-481 would change with anticipated changing traffic patterns; the second, a study on stormwater run off into Onondaga Lake and the third, the impact of Micron.

“Unless Respondents [NYS, City of Syracuse] are arguing that statements by the Governor and other elected officials are not factually supported, the Micron Project dwarfs the I-81 Project, much less anything this community has seen. It is just too massive to ignore,” Judge Neri wrote in his decision.

The Judge’s decision and filings from petitioners “Renew 81 for All” referenced projections from Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon that the community will grow by 200,000 in 20 years, as well as figures from CenterState CEO that 125,000 will come in the next decade.

“I know and appreciate how big micron is and what it will mean, but in terms of the viaduct i don’t think its going to have a very big impact at all,” said Centerstate CEO’s Dave Mankiewicz.

Mankiewicz is the company’s senior vice president for research policy and planning. He’s been involved in studying I-81 and alternatives for the viaduct for 15 years, and is frustrated that there are somehow still questions surrounding whether or not there’s a better option than the Community Grid.

“We study things here for so long. Fifteen years. And just about every possible option to move that traffic through the city has been studied extensively, all different types of tunnels, bridges. After fifteen years we have a nice pile of studies and we don’t have a decision yet on what we’re going to do. As a community, we need to get on with it,” said Mankiewicz.

He said that Centerstate’s 125,000 people projection is for all five counties in Central New York, and said that the idea that a significant number of them would ever have needed the 1.4 miles of viaduct downtown for daily use is questionable at best.

While the ruling does allow for the state to continue awarding contracts and begin construction on I-481, advocates for city residents are disappointed that the viaduct has this legal protection.

Lanessa Owens-Chaplin, Director of Environmental Justice Project with the New York Civil Liberties Union, said that she sees the Micron link as speculative at best. While she understands the idea of doing a bigger study on air pollution over I-481, she notes that no one in the suburbs has been impacted by that highway the way that those in the city have. Residents experiencing poverty within just feet of the viaduct itself, a population that is predominantly non-white, continue to have their health threatened each day by the highway generations after the viaduct destroyed the 15th ward.

“This decision had nothing to do with protecting residents who live closer to the viaduct, environmental justice or the racial justice that many folks have been asking for,” said Owens-Chaplin.

Leslie Silva, an attorney with Tully Rinckey, agreed that Judge Neri’s decision to include Micron was unusual in her experience. She said however that the order to include data on air pollution on I-481 and stormwater runoff, which the state originally was going to do in later phases of the project, is more logical.

Silva said that the inclusion of Micron could reveal further information about that project down the line, as studies will have to stand up to legal questioning.

“Its caused him [Judge Neri] some concerns that he wants addressed in this proceeding. It has to the potential to hold these politician’s feet to the fire and say you promised us this big project are you really coming through with it,” said Silva.

Micron selected to invest $100 billion with megafab sites in Clay after the NYSDOT had decided upon a Community Grid. A spokesperson for Onondaga County said that when negotiating with company representatives, the I-81 project was a non-factor.

Judge Neri’s ruling came about a month after oral arguments in a lawsuit first brought forward by group Renew 81 for All, which has supported a “skybridge” concept to replace the viaduct that was studied and dismissed as completely infeasible by the State DOT.

Read More

Featured Attorney

Recent Posts

You can contact us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week via phone at 8885294543, by e-mail at or by clicking the button below:

Ready to book your consultation? Click below to pay our consultation fee and book your meeting with an attorney today!

Contact us today to schedule your consultation.

Get Started