SYRACUSE, N.Y.—When Van Robinson moved from New York to Syracuse in 1968, one of the first things he noticed was Interstate 81, which runs along a 1.4-mile viaduct straight through the city's downtown. "I thought, 'This is ridiculous. Who in the world would put an interstate through the middle of a city?'" says Robinson. "I-81 is 855 miles from Knoxville, Tennessee, to the Canadian border. This is the only place where it goes through a city. It always bugged me."
Forty-six years later, Robinson now serves as president of Syracuse's Common Council and may finally be in a position to do something about the elevated highway that he has described as a "Berlin Wall" dividing the city's neighborhoods. The I-81 viaduct will reach the end of its functional life in 2017, and the New York State Department of Transportation has decided that it is not worth the cost of rehabilitation. One way or another, the viaduct is coming down.
How getting from here to there is changing forever.