Removal of the I-81 Viaduct in Syracuse, N.Y., passed a key milestone last week with firms shortlisted for the first phase of work submitting their proposals on time. 

Nicolas Choubah, chief engineer for the New York State Dept. of Transportation, highlighted Sept. 16 at the ENR NYNJ Infrastructure Forum in New York City, one state effort to think outside of the box for options to replace infrastructure that has reached the end of its useful life.

Instead of rebuilding the crumbling 1.4-mile viaduct slicing through the heart of downtown Syracuse, the state will spend $2.3 billion to remove it and reconnect neighborhoods that were first severed more than 60 years ago. 

“A major investment is needed. We can spend this much money to reconstruct what you have, which would still be deficient—or you can think bigger,” Choubah told the audience.

The project will accommodate roughly 100,000 vehicles pera day passing over the viaduct by converting an existing outer loop (I-481) into the primary I-81, and replacing the viaduct with a ground-level boulevard.

Proposals for the first of eight contract packages were due to the department the same day as the forum. Contract 1 would reconfigure the northern I-81/I-481 interchange to add direct connections, plus additional lanes elsewhere on the network.

Choubah later confirmed that all three shortlisted bidders successfully submitted for the design-build contract, including:

•  Cashless Tolling Constructors LLC (dba CNY Alliance), made up of A.Servidone/B. Anthony JV, Rifenburg Construction Corp., Economy Paving Co and Crane-Hogan Structural Systems Inc., working with design partners Stantec Consulting Services Inc. and KC Engineering and Land Surveying.

•  Lane-Barrett Constructors Joint Venture, which includes The Lane Construction Corp. and Barrett Paving Materials Inc. working with designers Jacobs Civil Consultants Inc., T.Y. Lin International Engineering & Architecture and Barton & Loguidice.

•  Salt City Constructors LLC, a partnership of Lancaster Development and Tully Construction Co. LLC (dba L&T Construction), D.A. Collins Construction Co. and Cold Spring Construction Co., with designers HNTB New York Engineering and Architecture and Bergman Associates, Architects, Engineers, Landscape Architects & Surveyors.

Once the estimated $232-million first contract is awarded, construction is expected to start in late 2022 and continue through 2025. Final request for proposals for contract 2, estimated at $343 million, is scheduled to be issued by December. Construction on the entire project would be complete by 2028, if all goes according to plan.

As previously reported by ENR, local residents and activists have called for more protections against lead contamination during demolition of the old viaduct, along with creation of a land trust to equitably redevelop areas of the city opened by the viaduct’s removal.

Choubah contends that I-81 planners have worked to establish trust and boost transparency with key stakeholders to allay the community’s concerns. “Number one, you have to listen and absorb what the community is asking," he said. "Second is to share with the community what you can do under the transportation project versus what you cannot do.”

As a result of community feedback, Choubah said the team has adopted stricter standards on lead and has committed to residents having “a seat at the table” on whatever decision is made about the land.

Still, at a Sept. 17 rally held in Syracuse, local advocates pressed for more to be done to protect the community from lead during demolition.