Interchange of the Week
Monday, 16 October 2000
I-81 & NY 370, Syracuse

A full-size image (774 KB) is also available.

Orientation: I-81 enters at top center and curves to the lower right. The three major surface roads at top left are, clockwise, NY 370 (Onondaga Lake Parkway), Old Liverpool Road (formerly NY 57) and Buckley Road. NY 370 passes through the junction of these three roads, and continues on as Park Street. It ends at US 11, half a block off the right edge of the photo. Hiawatha Boulevard crosses diagonally at bottom right. The large building at the bottom is the Carousel Center, a shopping mall. Onondaga Lake is at the left, and the stream draining into it is Ley Creek.

Diagonal across the center is the CSXT mainline, with a branch running up the east lake shore toward Fulton and Oswego. The Central New York Regional Market and the recently constructed Regional Transportation Center are just east of the I-81 overpass, with Alliance Bank (formerly P & C [formerly MacArthur]) Stadium beyond at upper right.

Exit numbers: Exit 23 from I-81 northbound is for Hiawatha Boulevard and NY 370 (Park Street). Southbound, exit 23A is for Hiawatha Boulevard and Exit 23B is for Carousel Center Drive. Exits 24A and 24B, unsigned northbound-only exits for Old Liverpool Road and NY 370 (Onondaga Lake Parkway), are now marked as part of northbound Exit 23. (Buckley Road, unsigned, is also available from this exit.) There is no Exit 24 southbound. Exit 22, for NY 298 (Bear and Court Streets), is off the bottom right corner, but the southbound exit shares a ramp with Exits 23A and 23B.

The interchange: This complex area as at least as good a candidate for the moniker "Can of Worms" as is the true Can, featured in Week 1; in fact, it contains design elements similar to the original version of that interchange. Essentially, it consists of the complex junction of Onondaga Lake Parkway, Old Liverpool Road and Buckley Road, together with a road connecting this junction with I-81 to and from the south. I-81 from the north also shares this connector for its exits to Hiawatha Boulevard and the Carousel Center. Finally, this connector provides access to a southbound service road which goes on to meet NY 298.

Connections: This interchange series is unusually difficult to interpret from maps, partly because of the many parallel ramps and roadways, and partly because even the best maps do not quite depict it correctly. Therefore, a description of the available connections from each approach is provided below. 

From I-81 southbound: A single ramp branches off to serve Exits 22, 23A and 23B. It feeds into the connecting road, which crosses over Ley Creek and the railroad. A ramp (Exit 23A) branches right to serve Hiawatha Boulevard, providing access also to Park Street, while the throughs lane become a southbound service road of I-81. Shortly thereafter, a slip ramp on the left rejoins the I-81 mainline; then, on the right, are the short ramps (Exit 23B) to and from Carousel Center Drive. Beyond the edge of the photo, the service road continues on to intersect NY 298 (Bear Street) at Exit 22. It further continues as Genant Drive, serving Court, Spencer and Catawba Streets (Exit 21, although the latter two are served more directly by a slip ramp from I-81) before finally rejoining the mainline No access is provided for the three northbound surface roads; instead, motorists must use Exit 23A and make two left turns for Park Street northbound.

From I-81 northbound: Again, a single ramp serves several exits, this time Exits 23, 24A and 24B. Three lanes wide, it branches to the right under the Hiawatha Boulevard overpass. It then splits, with the right-hand branch (Exit 23) intersecting Park Street at the Regional Market entrance, with access thence to Hiawatha Boulevard and the Carousel Center. The left-hand branch of the exit ramp passes under I-81 to join the connector. Again it splits: to the right is Exit 24A for Old Liverpool Road (with yet a third split for Buckley Road) and to the left is Exit 24B for Onondaga Lake Parkway.

From NY 370 southbound (Onondaga Lake Parkway): This road splits evenly in two, with the right-hand ramp joining the connector from I-81 southbound, with all of its subsequent connections at Exits 22, 23A and 23B. The left-hand ramp slithers through the surface road junction and continues as Park Street. Notice also that a left turn channel provides access to northbound Old Liverpool and Buckley Roads, as well as a U-turn back to Onondaga Lake Parkway. Access to northbound I-81 would be via Park Street to Hiawatha Boulevard.

From Old Liverpool Road: The southbound lanes swing over NY 370, and run parallel to the ramp from NY 370 southbound to I-81. However, the two never intersect. Instead, Old Liverpool Road traffic forms a center lane on the connector roadway, separate from the parallel southbound lanes from NY 370 and I-81. The center lane feeds directly into I-81 southbound, just north of where the slip ramp from the service road joins (hence the unusually long taper on the latter ramp). Before the connector, notice a short ramp to connect Old Liverpool Road with the through lane of NY 370 southbound. From here the left turn/U-turn channel mentioned above is available, as well as access to Hiawatha Boulevard, the Carousel Center and Regional Market, and northbound I-81, via Park Street.

From Buckley Road: An immediate right turn is available to Old Liverpool Road. Otherwise, traffic on Buckley Road crosses that northbound for Old Liverpool Road, and joins with that from Old Liverpool Road southbound, making all the same connections (see above).

From NY 370 northbound (Park Street): Access to I-81 northbound is via Hiawatha Boulevard, from which a ramp leads directly to the mainline. Southbound access would be made by following US 11 south to Bear Street, with its entrance at Exit 22. At the three-way split, the right-hand lane of Park Street leads directly to Buckley Road, while the left-hand lane splits for Old Liverpool Road (right) and Onondaga Lake Parkway (left).

Extraneous roadway: Close inspection of the full-size image will reveal a further complexity: an apparently unused roadway alignment. Notice a left turn off of the ramp from Park Street to Buckley Road, that leads to a section of roadway that parallels the through lane of NY 370 northbound. At the next split, this road dead ends against the ramp to Old Liverpool Road, and continues again beyond it for but a short distance. It shares two underpasses with NY 370 northbound as well. This may be a service access road for part of Onondaga Lake Park, or it may be a remnant of a previous configuration here. There are also a few added turn channels for properties abutting the very south end of Buckley Road.

Michael Moroney writes of the former configuration:
"You may be interested to know that the connector road and the I-81 Exit 23 southbound offramp are part of an old routing of I-81. I have an old Syracuse map (not sure of the year but it has NY 57 on it) that shows I-81 having a rather nasty curve between what are now the offramp and the connector road. It also shows a dotted line along the new route of I-81; I guess it was being built then.

"The exits were also a lot simpler then, no A/B/C suffixes at all. Exit 24 is a half diamond (to/from I-81 south only), with the northbound offramp going under I-81. Exit 23 is 3/4s of a trumpet to Hiawatha Boulevard (missing the loop ramp). Exit 22 is an offset diamond (the northbound and southbound ramps go to different cross streets), with the southbound ramps also leading to Genant Drive, acting as a service road with two other ramps leading to/from it (maybe there were A/B exits there after all). Also, that unused street looks like it was Park Street at the time. Finally, the mall was Washington Square Park and some railroad tracks then."

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