John Norquist answers your questions on Interstate 81's future
Good morning! Our live Q&A with John Norquist about Interstate 81 begins at 11:30 a.m., but we can start taking your questions now.
Tuesday March 4, 2014 11:22
john norquist: 
Welcome to the discussion on I-81.
Tuesday March 4, 2014 11:22 john norquist
[Comment From JosefJosef: ] 
What advice do you have for residents who live close to the viaduct and do not want an elevated highway to be rebuilt? (in terms getting a voice into the discussion).
Tuesday March 4, 2014 11:28 Josef
john norquist: 
Speak up wherever you can. NYDOT hearings or City hearings. Also frame your statement as how to add value to Syracuse and the neighborhood.
Tuesday March 4, 2014 11:29 john norquist
[Comment From Wailin SuzynWailin Suzyn: ] 
Hi, Mr. Norquist. Thanks for taking our questions. I'm curious how you are familiar with the details of our community's discussion on this topic.
Tuesday March 4, 2014 11:30 Wailin Suzyn
john norquist: 
I've been visiting Syracuse on and off for the past 20 years. My wife and I often go through Syracuse each summer for our vacation. And I know some people at Syracuse University who've talked about it with me from time to time.
Tuesday March 4, 2014 11:31 john norquist
[Comment From Rick VoorheesRick Voorhees: ] 
I really don't have a question, but I have a suggestion for the City of Syracuse. If you want to see what can happen when you tear down a overpass roadway just look at San Francisco's embarcadero...I live in the Bay Area and when the 89 Quake hit there was some damage done to the over head roadway along the embarcadero. They tore it down and it has made a world of difference aesthetically and enhanced the whole area...Just throwing that out for what it's worth...
Tuesday March 4, 2014 11:32 Rick Voorhees
john norquist: 
I agree. Property values rose and of course being SF they included an affordable housing component. Also traffic distribution actually improved.
Tuesday March 4, 2014 11:33 john norquist
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
What happened to traffic on city streets in Milwaukee when the interstate came down? Did it result in gridlock?
Tuesday March 4, 2014 11:34 Guest
john norquist: 
No gridlock. Travel times improved for many trips.
Tuesday March 4, 2014 11:34 john norquist
[Comment From Syracuse ResidentSyracuse Resident: ] 
So your answer to Wailin Suzyn's question is that you are not very familiar at all with our community and it's needs?
Tuesday March 4, 2014 11:36 Syracuse Resident
john norquist: 
I don't claim to know more about Syracuse than people who live in Syracuse. I do know something about freeway removal in SF,NYC, Chattanooga, Portland and Seoul, South Korea.
Tuesday March 4, 2014 11:37 john norquist
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
In other communities, how does the public discussion take place? What's the best model Syracuse could learn from?
Tuesday March 4, 2014 11:37 Guest
john norquist: 
The city needs to exert itself. The public hearing process that most DOTs have really doesn't encourage open discussion. So the mayor and other city officials need to take the lead. In Oregon, it was Governor Tom McCall. In Seoul, South Korea is was Mayor Lee Myung-Bok. And in NYC, it was Pat Moynihan.
Tuesday March 4, 2014 11:39 john norquist
[Comment From MikeMike: ] 
What has happened in Milwaukee since the freeway was removed? Have property values gone up? Has there been new development in the area?
Tuesday March 4, 2014 11:40 Mike
john norquist: 
There has been $100s of millions of new development. Manpower, a Fortune 500 company, moved into the the city from the suburbs. There is the mixed-use Beer Line development. That's about $300 million in increased property value alone. The actual land that the freeway was on because the county has all kinds of rules that dictate how it's used. And traffic distribution is great.
Tuesday March 4, 2014 11:42 john norquist
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
We have a depressed highway here as I-81 travels north through Syracuse, with streets crossing on bridges, etc. It's just as ugly as the elevated. How can a depressed highway be made to look better and make better use of the dead space above traffic?
Tuesday March 4, 2014 11:43 Guest
john norquist: 
A depressed highway does slightly less damage than an elevated highway. But ideally, you would get rid of both. In a downtown, you can cap a depressed freeway, like was done in Columbus, OH or in Boston. But those projects tend to be more expensive than any other solution.
Tuesday March 4, 2014 11:44 john norquist
[Comment From BillBill: ] 
Do you feel that a boulevard replacement is the best option for Syracuse or would you consider other alternatives? What types of alternatives would you be in favor of potentially?
Tuesday March 4, 2014 11:45 Bill
john norquist: 
The boulevard would be the best alternative because it would cary the most traffic. An avenue or a narrow street wouldn't carry much traffic. With a multi-way boulevard, you would as much lane mileage as you do now and it would work better at rush hour because it would connect to the street grid. Connecticut Avenue 18 to 13 mph at peak half hour and Potomac Freeway runs 2 to 3mph at peak half hour. Because Connecticut Ave. is connect to the street, you're not stuck on it like you are on a freeway. Freeways work great at 2 AM, but when you really need them they tend to clog up.
Tuesday March 4, 2014 11:47 john norquist
[Comment From Carlo MonetiCarlo Moneti: ] 
Considering that I690 is essentially just a feeder for syracuse, it seems useful to bring it down to grade in the downtown area. One great advantage is that it would facilitate connection with I81 blvd via a roundabout, which would be efficient and make available so much land for development. By extension, additional roundabouts could be put at West St., around University Ave. for SU access, and at appropriate points along I81 blvd. What do you think?
Tuesday March 4, 2014 11:48 Carlo Moneti
john norquist: 
I think that's a very thoughtful plan. Vancouver doesn't have any freeways and it has the most buoyant real estate market in North America over the past 30 years.
Tuesday March 4, 2014 11:49 john norquist
[Comment From fultonformerfultonformer: ] 
You must be a peer of Andres Duanny, who I have heard speak a couple times on enhancing what you have in the urban city. Have you considered the fact that Syracuse has a snow problem being one of the snowiest cities in the country. I 81 has no illegally parked cars or other obstacles for the sometimes daily snow removal. Would that not be a concern in the design of a dropped boulevard streets through neighborhoods.
Tuesday March 4, 2014 11:50 fultonformer
john norquist: 
Actually, a surface road performs better in ice and snow. And an elevated freeway freezes much faster. Look at what happened in Atlanta: There wasn't a problem on the surface streets but there was on the freeways. Of course, I'll concede that Atlantans don't know jack squat about driving in ice and snow.
Tuesday March 4, 2014 11:53 john norquist
[Comment From MichaelMichael: ] 
Why would we expect the "Blvd" solution to be any less a disaster than Erie Blvd between downtown and DeWitt? Stop at every light.
Tuesday March 4, 2014 11:53 Michael
john norquist: 
There is a lot more property value along Erie Boulevard than along the freeway. The purpose of a street in the urban context is more than just to move traffic. An urban street has three purposes instead of one: It's setting for commerce, for social interaction, and traffic movement. Erie Boulevard doesn't look that bad to me. If you want to drive fast, go live in the countryside.
Tuesday March 4, 2014 11:55 john norquist
[Comment From burbsburbs: ] 
I need my car. How can you take away my highway and my car? How am I supposed to get to work if you take away my car?
Tuesday March 4, 2014 11:56 burbs
john norquist: 
Keep the car and the cannoli. You can drive on a boulevard.
Tuesday March 4, 2014 11:56 john norquist
[Comment From guestguest: ] 
John, There is a lot of focus on I-81 but little talk about mass transit solutions. Shouldn't that be the part of any transportation dialogue?
Tuesday March 4, 2014 11:57 guest
john norquist: 
Yes. I agree. Syracuse should put back a few of its streetcar lines, eventually.
Tuesday March 4, 2014 11:57 john norquist
[Comment From guestguest: ] 
How important is where a ramp is or isn't in reviving a city?
Tuesday March 4, 2014 11:57 guest
john norquist: 
For property value, more ramps are better than fewer ramps. If you're trying to move throughout the city quickly, it's better to have no ramps. If it's to increase property values, you'd want more ramps. But the best solution is not to have a freeway within the city itself. Keep the freeways on the periphery.
Tuesday March 4, 2014 11:59 john norquist
Bob Haley
[Comment From Bob HaleyBob Haley : ]
Returning to the question of improving the land values in our downtown area, how do we require the DOT EIS process currently being prepared, to include planning for improving land values impacted by the DOT I-81 Viaduct project? I am attaching a
Tuesday March 4, 2014 12:00 
john norquist: 
The EIS process is not a magic formula to resolve issues. It's just another place to argue about what's the right thing to do. You have to be careful not to fall into a trap where it's all about traffic flow. The person who proposed this question is correct in asking "what is the value this facility is adding?" A street you can build buildings on is more valuable than a freeway. That's why most cities in Europe don't have freeways within their beltlines.
Tuesday March 4, 2014 12:02 john norquist
Folks, if you'd like to know more about what's being considered for the viaduct, here's a link to a website developed by the New York State Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration:
Now, back the Q&A.
Tuesday March 4, 2014 12:03
[Comment From JABJAB: ] 
I81 is our only north/south highway. There is no other option for traffic traveling through our area, unlike Milwaukee, which had another highway to handle the traffic flow once your highway was taken down. People here seem to keep comparing the two situations and they are totally different. Taking down I 81 will cause major problems with traffic flow on the city streets. Do you see another solution that we're not seeing?
Tuesday March 4, 2014 12:03 JAB
john norquist: 
A boulevard will carry almost as much or just as much traffic as the freeway. And it will probably carry it faster during peak travel times and obviously slowing during non-peak travel times. See my previous comment about Vancouver.
Tuesday March 4, 2014 12:04 john norquist
[Comment From StephenCvengrosStephenCvengros: ] 
Mr. Norquist, What part of a city is most impacted and should a decision be weighted? For example, is impact on a downtown business district more important than a park? Or more important than office vacancies? Appreciate your thoughts on this.
Tuesday March 4, 2014 12:05 StephenCvengros
john norquist: 
A good downtown is a combination of all of these things. It's a place to live, recreate, and an office location. It can even be a place with light manufacturing. Downtowns are mixed-use by their nature. Just take Greenwich Village in NYC as an example. It has no freeway. It almost did. The Lower Manhattan Expressway was planned to plow right through it. It would have been faster to get from Long Island to NJ. But Greenwich Village, Chelsea, and Tribeca would have ruined as a place to live, work, and recreate. Fortunately, the freeway was never built. When the Westside Highway was removed, it helped Greenwich Village become an even stronger neighborhood.
Tuesday March 4, 2014 12:09 john norquist
[Comment From MarkMark: ] 
John, in the case of Milwaukee, was that a through highway or a stub? And can talk about the different challenges with a through highway.
Tuesday March 4, 2014 12:09 Mark
john norquist: 
It was a stub thanks to our anti-highway movement. You have less of a traffic challenge if you remove a stub. But the examples of the Westside Highway and the freeway in Seoul, which both had excess of 150,000 cars per day, demonstrates that you can remove a high capacity freeway. In both cases, traffic distribution improved and property values rose significantly.
Tuesday March 4, 2014 12:11 john norquist
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
What, if anything, was done in other cities to help businesses that were located alongside highways that were torn down. In Syracuse, there's businesses on the north side and just north of the city that might be adversely impacted if I-81 comes down.
Tuesday March 4, 2014 12:12 Guest
john norquist: 
If you do a multiway boulevard, it will carry enough traffic that the hospitality industry will not be significantly impacted. Especially, those near the edge of the city. The boulevard will carry a significant amount of traffic.
Tuesday March 4, 2014 12:14 john norquist
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
You talk about a boom in real estate investment when highways come down. That makes developers rich, but how does it help me?
Tuesday March 4, 2014 12:14 Guest
john norquist: 
Well if you're a taxpayer, it lightens you load. Someone else helps you pay property tax.
Tuesday March 4, 2014 12:15 john norquist
[Comment From citypostercityposter: ] 
an 8 lane blvd is no more ped friendly than an ugly elevated highway, what difference does it make?
Tuesday March 4, 2014 12:15 cityposter
john norquist: 
I agree. Don't do an 8 lane boulevard. Do a 4 lane in the middle, two in each direction. And one lane on each side for the localized traffic.
Tuesday March 4, 2014 12:17 john norquist
[Comment From JasonJason: ] 
In Milwaukee (or any other similar case-study city), how did the land freed up by the removal of the highway get divided up, marketed to, and transferred to developers? It would seem paramount for urban vitality that the parcels be diverse and dense, so as to not encourage sprawling single-use developments along the corridor.
Tuesday March 4, 2014 12:17 Jason
john norquist: 
I agree. It should be pre-platted with relatively small lots. With a form-based code that encourage mixed-use development. The block size should be the same as traditional block size in downtown Syracuse.
Tuesday March 4, 2014 12:18 john norquist
Hi, readers,
Mr. Norquist will continue answering questions until 12:30 p.m., but we have so many lined up now that we're going to have to stop accepting more.
Tuesday March 4, 2014 12:19
[Comment From MichaelMichael: ] 
I do not need to drive "fast", but I would like to go one block without stopping for a light!
Tuesday March 4, 2014 12:19 Michael
john norquist: 
With a multiway boulevard, you can have intersections with the major streets, but not every street. Hope this addresses you question.
Tuesday March 4, 2014 12:20 john norquist
[Comment From MikeMike: ] 
This is what Erie Boulevard looks like. No sidewalks, miles between pedestrian crossings. It is much more highway than boulevard:
Tuesday March 4, 2014 12:20 Mike
john norquist: 
It's not great. But it's better than a freeway.
Tuesday March 4, 2014 12:22 john norquist
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
What do you say to those that live north of the city or west of the city who want to maintain a quick, easy, traffic-free pathway to downtown or points south of the city?
Tuesday March 4, 2014 12:22 Guest
john norquist: 
It will still be reasonably quick. If you want to drive fast, move to Detroit. They have freeways that go everywhere. There is more to life than just driving fast. Syracuse was once one of the richest cities in the country. It's been degraded. Why keep it that way? So you can drive fast? Why not copy Vancouver instead of Detroit?
Tuesday March 4, 2014 12:24 john norquist
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
Mr. Norquist, you are obviously not that familiar with Syracuse. There is no real rush hour. Traffic normally flows at 55-60mph during rush hour here. There is no way a boulevard can maintain those speeds. It is one of the things we like about the current system.
Tuesday March 4, 2014 12:25 Guest
john norquist: 
You can drive fast in Detroit. Detroit is the most successful city in the world at relieving congestion. One of the reasons Syracuse isn't congested is because it isn't that successful economically. You don't go to NY, Paris, or Vancouver to drive fast. But people want to be there. Congestion is a symptom of success.
Tuesday March 4, 2014 12:27 john norquist
[Comment From MeMe : ]
A tunnel like the one in Boston would eliminate everyone's concerns and make area for more green within the city. Sure it costs more buy you usually get what you pay for. BTW, this essentially eliminated traffic congestion in this part of Bosto
Tuesday March 4, 2014 12:27 
john norquist: 
It's really unlikely to be repeated. And when you tunnel, there are always unforeseen circumstances. Seattle is trying this right now, and they've lost their boring machine. Plus, it's really expensive. I'm not sure even Schumer could get enough money for that.
Tuesday March 4, 2014 12:29 john norquist
[Comment From Mark d.Mark d.: ] 
It seems like you answer about North-South traffic didn't reflect the re-routing of I81 to where I481 is now. Can you comment on that part too. I think there are many who hear that "I81 will be replaced by a boulevard" but it really won't. I81 will be re-routed and a boulevard will replace a 1.3 mile downtown stretch of what is now 81. The draft plan even keeps the highway above and below the 1.3 miles to make traveling to downtown fairly simple.
Tuesday March 4, 2014 12:30 Mark d.
john norquist: 
I agree. Good point. Your'e absolutely right. I-481 will absorb a lot of the traffic. Ideally, though, I don't think they should take out just 1.3 miles of I-81. They should take it all out. But if that's all you can get, it's better than nothing. It's better than rebuilding the whole freeway.
Tuesday March 4, 2014 12:32 john norquist
Hi again, readers. We've run out of time. Thank you, John Norquist, for taking the time for us today, and thank you, readers, for joining us and asking terrific questions.
Tuesday March 4, 2014 12:32
john norquist: 
Great questions. Whatever side you take on the issue, thanks for participating. If you want to learn more about freeway removal, you should visit our page:
Tuesday March 4, 2014 12:33 john norquist
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