Assignment 3: Travel on the I-81 Viaduct

For a couple of years now, the decaying state of Interstate 81 through Syracuse has drawn numerous studies, concerns and hopeful solutions. Like the highway itself, these problems are splitting Syracuse in half –– one group wants to remove the viaduct altogether, in favor of other, possibly more favorable options; the second wants to repair the road outright.

The city recently brought more information to light. If it was to deconstruct the bridge and replace it with a tunnel the cost might be even greater. But that isn’t stopping numerous groups from seeking alternatives.

The chart below shows the traffic patterns on the viaduct as it stands now. A camera was placed on either end (one just south of the I-481 interchange, the other north of Exit 17 on the Southside) to capture the license plates of passing vehicles. The cameras captured about 86 percent of the total vehicles using the viaduct on a weekday in April.

As the graph shows, only about 12 percent of the 44,000 daily travelers are  using the viaduct to travel through Syracuse. The other 38,600 are entering or exiting the highway at Exit 18 on Harrison and Adams Streets.

These numbers have frequently been used to advocate on behalf of the group that wants the viaduct gone. The city has seen the numbers, and the handful of alternate routes around the city suggest that turning the viaduct into a level boulevard would not only keep traffic flowing smoothly, but also allow overspill traffic to ignite local businesses. This is an enticing possibility for a city largely in debt for the last six years.

Other studies have proven that turning a viaduct into a ground-level boulevard can improve the city in numerous ways: in Seattle, Hong Kong and various other cities, crime went down, property value went up, and local businesses experienced a surge. Less drivers were passing over the city, and more were passing through.

A decision has yet to be reached, but for those retaining faith in the character of a once-prospering city, the numbers foretell a hopeful future.


Data Source

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