At the same time, the city was working to get a piece of some of the money made available in the 1956 Federal Highway Act, which authorized money for the construction of the Interstate system. A strong highway network, city leaders argued, would make Syracuse one of the largest cities in the country because people would be able to easily commute to downtown from outlying areas.In 1956 the state approved a $500 million bond for a project that would raze the 15th Ward and erect an elevated freeway that bisected downtown. That this construction would destroy a close-knit black community, with a freeway running through the heart of town, essentially separating Syracuse in two, did not seem of much concern to local leaders. They wanted state and federal funding, and were willing to follow whatever plans were proposed to get it. [emphasis added]
“The city was almost unimaginably passive about these decisions,” DiMento told me.
“Rather than fostering a sense of neighborhoods, city officials viewed distinctive city sections as expendable or blighted areas needing to be razed,” DiMento wrote in his study of the construction of I-81 in Syracuse.