A New Approach to Retrofitting a Dangerous Suburban Road

Streets Blog USA 

Erie Boulevard East in Dewitt, New York, is ugly, stressful, and dangerous. It’s also entirely unremarkable in America’s suburban landscape.

The defining feature of this grey, six-lane road is its weed-lined concrete median. If you even try to walk or bike on Erie Boulevard, you’ll immediately feel like you’re doing something wrong.

The street has “absolutely no regard to aesthetics or humanity,” said Sam Gordon, Dewitt’s director of planning. “It’s existed that way ever since that was put in.”

Input needed for Erie Canal 'Spanning the Gap' cultural marker project

Do you have interesting stories, facts or historical information regarding the area of the old path of the Erie Canal that spans from Camillus to DeWitt? You may be able to help with a new project to promote interest in the history and cultural significance of the area.

Spanning the Gap is a project that was spurred from last year’s Elevating Erie ideas competition as a means to stimulate projects that would revitalize the path of the old Erie Canal and create ways for it to become more versatile. Recently, the town of DeWitt was awarded a $75,000 grant from the New York State Council of the Arts to help fund Spanning the Gap.

Erie Boulevards of the future: Contest winners share their visions

Elevating Erie contest winners

A view looking north on Rt. 481 in DeWitt from Butternut Drive near the Old Erie Canal State Park. The highway covers part of the old canal. The Town of DeWitt and City of Syracuse are sponsoring a contest seeking ideas on how to revitalize the Erie Boulevard corridor in the town and city.

Winner of Boulevard category

Erie Eco-Boulevared: This idea is to transform Erie Boulevard from a car-centric boulevard into an ecofriendly, pedestrian-centered Eco-Boulevard that provides habitats, recreation space, and stimulates economic growth.

The goals are to restore the historical identity, enhance the ecological function, create leisure space, and improve pedestrian and biking use.

Public opinion sought on 'Elevating Erie' entries

An elevated museum of sorts, bike trails, a blooming bridge, an outdoor ice skating park. Those are all some of the ideas that have been submitted to the “Elevating Erie” competition, focused on revamping Erie Boulevard East in Onondaga County. Now it’s time for the public to weigh in on potential projects that could turn six drab lanes of traffic into an historic and recreational destination.

Priorities for 'Elevating Erie' Include Shift Towards Bike Lanes, Pedestrian Access

The results are in from last summer’s public survey about transforming Erie Boulevard from Syracuse through DeWitt into a more appealing multi-use corridor.   Town of DeWitt Director of Planning Sam Gordon says one priority rose to the top.

"Participants clearly indicated a preference for improving pedestrian and bicycle amenities along the boulevard, as well as increasing connectivity and safety along the corridor through protected bike lanes, reducing the amount of pavement allocated to vehicle traffic, as well as creating refuge areas for pedestrians."

Elevating Erie survey results announced

The group working to revamp a 4-mile stretch of Erie Boulevard East in Onondaga County is sharing the results of a survey it launched last year. More than 1,200 surveys were completed about how to best improve the highly trafficked corridor between Syracuse and Dewitt. 

"It’s more than any that I’ve ever received on a project," said Syracuse planner Owen Kerney. "Typically if you have a couple hundred people interested and responding you’re doing pretty good, so 12-1,300 demonstrates a phenomenal amount of interest."

Elevating Erie Looks to Close Canalway Gap


The Erie Canalway Trail runs from Albany to Buffalo.

Right in the middle is a 14-mile gap across Central New York.

"Our intention from the outset was to collect a bunch of big ideas for what to do with this corridor, and to help the community to close the gap in the Canalway Trail," Dewitt Planning and Zoning Director Sam Gordon said.

Project leaders launched Elevating Erie to close the gap. Dozens of proposals later and there's a flurry of ideas to transform the Canalway gap from DeWitt to Camillus.

Elevating Erie project unearths possibilities beneath Erie Boulevard sprawl (Editorial)


Erie Boulevard could be any commercial strip in any Upstate New York city -- “ six lanes of traffic separated by a wide median and bordered by retail stores, fast-food restaurants, asphalt parking strips and weedy, litter-strewn lots.

Except it's not just any six-lane road. It was built on top of the Erie Canal. And all the canal did for 19th century America was to open the West to settlement and trade, make New York City the financial capital of the world, and put Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo on the map -- literally.

Competition hopes to elevate historic Erie Canal path


Before the Erie Canal was dug almost 200 years ago, Syracuse was a swampy village of 250 people. Once that canal opened up commerce between the Hudson River and Lake Erie, the city grew dramatically. It’s this history that the Syracuse and the town of DeWitt want to reclaim, by revitalizing the 14-mile gap in the original canal path, which currently exists between DeWitt and Camillus.

What would make Erie Boulevard friendlier? A contest will pay you for the best idea


More than a century ago, the Erie Canal welcomed travelers to Syracuse.

Today, the historic pathway -- now Erie Boulevard -- is anything but welcoming.

The commercial six-lane thoroughfare is jammed with strip centers, stores, gas stations and restaurants. It's not a place where people go to walk, jog, or bike and it's certainly not known for its attractiveness.

Planners want to change that, and they are running a contest to engage the public and experts in submitting their ideas.

The idea is to solicit proposals for transforming the four-mile section of Erie Boulevard that runs through DeWitt and Syracuse into a revitalized, reborn corridor that people want to use and appreciate. At the same time, the improvements would honor the historical importance of the Erie Canal in Syracuse and DeWitt.