SYRACUSE, NY – A $ 2 million study that examined whether a tunnel is an option to replace a section of the veteran highway in Syracuse has determined it would be feasible, but would cost between $ 3 billion and $ 4.5 billion and It would take between nine and 10 years to build.
Gob. Andrew Cuomo had ordered the study in January to examine in depth whether a tunnel was feasible to replace a 1.2-mile section of Interstate 81 in Syracuse.
The state Department of Transportation had earlier rejected the tunnel as a possibility, but it remains the preferred alternative among some elected officials, including state Sen. John DeFrancisco, and some other groups in and around Syracuse.
Instead, the state moved forward with other possibilities for the highway, including rebuilding the existing viaduct or re-routing traffic to the existing street grid and sending traffic to what is now Interstate 481.  In a statement announcing the study, the DOT said the study showed that a tunnel is "technically feasible" but costly. Rebuilding the viaduct would cost approximately $ 1.7 billion and a grid would cost $ 1.3 billion.
The next state will decide whether to go with a viaduct, tunnel or street grid option to replace the road.
The authors of the study, WSP / Parsons-Brinckerhoff, did not compare tunnel options with grid or viaduct options. Instead, he examined seven possibilities, including four in depth, and described how the tunnel could be built and the impact it would have on the city.
Finally, he selected one of the four options, known as the "Orange" Alternative: as the one recommended for the DOT to consider.
In an interview on Monday, former DOT commissioner Matt Driscoll said the department would evaluate the study's findings and determine whether to include a tunnel in the department's draft environmental statement. That statement provides the blueprint for what will eventually come from the road.
He said he would not "speculate" about whether the study ends the tunnel test, and only said that the DOT would be thorough when considering it.
The study said that the "Orange" option is the best of the four because it is relatively short compared to the other options and could appear relatively close to the existing I-81 and I-690 exchanges.
Creating it would require "significant" changes in existing I-690, raising the cost, but "providing more benefits."
The option "Orange" would contain the following characteristics:
- It would be running 1.6 miles;
- Take nine years to build;
- Cost $ 3.6 billion, plus $ 10 million a year in maintenance costs;
- Require the destruction of 12 buildings, including the possibility of the destruction of a historic building at 315 N. Salina St .;
- Demanding the replacement of the railroad bridge on Burt Street;
- It would pbad under a multi-story parking lot for Madison Towers and other private lands.
Two of the other options – "Red" and "Green" – would follow paths similar to the "orange" option but vary in how they connect to I-690 and the length of the tunnel, in addition to other differences in the structure of the tunnel.
These options cost between $ 3.3 billion and $ 3.6 billion and run between 1.2 and 2.2 miles.  A fourth option – the "blue" alternative – would diverge from route I-81 south of Martin Luther King East to West Street and follow West Street until it reaches I-690.
The "blue" option would cost $ 4.5 billion and would run for 2.6 miles.
Syracuse.com will be updated today with more coverage. The study is available below.
I81 Independent Viability Study Report Nov2017 by PatLohmann in Scribd