Rep. John Katko Urges Extension of I-81 Public Comment Period from NYSDOT, Federal Highway Administration to Ensure Community is Fully Heard

August 27, 2021
Press Release

SYRACUSE, NY  As the public comment period for the I-81 Viaduct Project nears its conclusion on September 14, 2021, U.S. Rep. John Katko (NY-24) today sent a letter to New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) Commissioner Marie Dominguez and Acting Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Stephanie Pollack requesting an extension of the public comment period to ensure all Central New Yorkers can review details of the plan and have their voices heard.

In July, NYSDOT and FHWA released the updated Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the I-81 project. The release of the DEIS, which spans thousands of pages and outlines the scope of the project and its impact on Central New York, triggered a 60-day public comment period during which members of the public can submit feedback on NYSDOT’s website. The purpose of this period is to allow the agencies to gather community input for consideration before a final determination on the project is made. Based on constituent feedback regarding the fast-approaching 60-day deadline, Rep. Katko urged NYSDOT and FHWA to consider extending the public comment period by 30 days, or a period determined by the agencies, to ensure local residents, schools, healthcare providers, business owners, and community leaders have an opportunity to fully participate in the public comment process.

“More than a decade in the making, the I-81 project is a truly transformational project that will impact Central New York for generations,” said Rep. Katko. “Like my constituents, I am eager to move forward with this project.  But we must do so in a deliberate way that ensures all voices in our community are heard. The release of the project’s DEIS is an important step forward in determining the future of I-81, and it presents an immense amount of information that will directly impact communities throughout our region. Central New Yorkers deserve enough time to review the critical details provided by the DEIS, and deliver their informed input on a decision that will significantly affect their daily lives.”

The full text of Rep. Katko’s letter can be found below:

Dear Administrator Pollack and Commissioner Dominguez,

Thank you for the work your agencies have done to advance the Interstate 81 (I-81) Viaduct Project in my district in Central New York. The recent release of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the project represents an important step forward in our community’s consideration of the future of I-81. Recognizing the profound impact that this project has on my constituents in the City of Syracuse and throughout the surrounding region, I write to request that your agencies take the necessary steps to ensure the public has ample opportunity to review the DEIS and participate in the corresponding public comment period.

As you know, the I-81 Viaduct Project is a truly transformational project, promising significant opportunities for Central New York and directly impacting thousands of families and businesses throughout our region.  Understandably, the DEIS for the I-81 Viaduct Project is a massive document that spans thousands of pages and a wide range of supplementary materials. For local residents, business owners, schools, healthcare providers, and community leaders, the highly detailed and often technical information within the DEIS is critically important, affecting their daily lives and the future of the region as a whole. It is vital that all of these stakeholders have an opportunity to provide informed input on this transformational project.

Our community has been considering the I-81 Viaduct Project for over a decade.  However, the public comment period is a critical point in this process, allowing a window of time in which the community may provide feedback that will be considered by FHWA and NYSDOT before a final determination is made. Given the scope of the DEIS and the significance of the I-81 Viaduct Project to Central New York, as well as the ongoing challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, I respectfully request that FHWA and NYSDOT consider extending the public comment for this project by 30 days, or an alternative period determined to be appropriate by your agencies. As our community quickly approaches the current deadline for public comment on September 14, 2021, my office has received outreach from many constituents regarding their ability to fully participate in this process under the current timeline. Providing a reasonable extension of the public comment will address these concerns, ensure a full and thorough consideration of the DEIS by our community, and provide more Central New Yorkers with an opportunity to make their voices heard.

Thank you for your time and consideration of my request. I look forward to your response.