March 9, 2010

PPOD March 9, 2010: I-81N to Nowhere

This is not a picture of Interstate I-81 North just past the I-690 interchange in Syracuse NY.

There's a section of I-81 that's been closed for more than 10 days, traffic now plodding through downtown neighborhoods, turning rush hour into a slow-moving parking lot along the North Side and in other parts of town.

In the meantime, everyone's trying to figure out how to go about the demolition, and more importantly how to pay for it and make the highway safe for travel the near future, we hope. And it's my Pet Peeve of the Day.

The closed section of I-81 doesn't look anything like this picture. It actually looks pretty serene; no maniacal merging, no spastic speeders, no paranoid passers -- just an empty stretch of highway. Nothing in the road -- no bricks, no building parts, no environmental disasters waiting to happen. No cranes or other symbols of pending demolition -- no nothing.

The problem, as I mentioned in my Dirty Snowpile Awards, is that a building that sits near the highway has had part of the back wall cave in. Well, that's the technical problem. The real problem is, of course, the back and forth between the interested parties -- building owner, City of Syracuse, State of New York, a couple of acronyms (DOT, DEC), the building owner, and a few lawyers trying to figure out who's responsible for fixing the problem.

The State has apparently offered to pay 70% of the costs, if the City will agree to pay the other 30%. Mayor Stephanie Miner is concerned about having to assume 30% of an unknown figure – unknown because what was initially a job expected to cost around half a million has ballooned up to around $2 million, so it’s really hard to say what it could cost now, since it’s been a few days since the last figure surfaced.

I think we all appreciate fiscal responsibility on the part of public servants - but there's also a need for a reality check. It's kind of sad to see us paralyzed by inaction when the highway just sits we inch ever closer to hosting the NCAAs and March Madness.

By the way, the picture above? It's from the Colorado DOT, who's dealing with a real reason to close an Interstate -- a massive rockslide. Their original guess was that they could get one lane of the highway cleared and reopened for traffic 'in a couple of days' however there are more rocks above the road that will delay the reopening.

But at least their road's a mess...

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