Headed to campus? How to navigate the I-81 detour


Starting today, drivers on Interstate 81 northbound will no longer be able to take Exit 5 to SUNY Broome Community College, at least for the upcoming months.

The New York State Department of Transportation has closed the Route 17 eastbound exit to I-81 northbound as it makes headway on the massive Prospect Mountain construction project, which is transforming the area where Route 17 and I-81 come together. The stretch of roadway is expected to remain closed through October as crews work on bridges in the area.

A detour will send drivers from Route 17 eastbound to Route 11 northbound — Front Street — at Exit 72. Drivers will pass the Bevier Street intersection and can re-enter I-81 northbound at a ramp on the right. If you’re headed to SUNY Broome, just keep going straight: the college will be on your left.

The DOT is reconfiguring Fr0nt Street to provide two northbound travel lanes, and are also adjusting the traffic signal at the bottom of the Exit 72 ramp to accommodate increased traffic flow.

However, if you’re headed to campus and want to avoid excessive traffic, you have other options.

You can exit the highway at Exit 71 (Airport Road), make a left onto Airport Road at the bottom of the ramp and then continue for approximately two miles. At the light, make a right onto Lewis Road; the intersection’s landmarks include the Choconut Center Fire Company and a white church. Lewis Road turns into Smith Hill Road, which intersects Front Street near the Sonic restaurant; make a right to reach the college. Follow the route in blue on the map here.

A word to the wise: adhere to the posted speed limits. Smith Hill Road is a residential street and patrolled regularly.

If the highway is backed up prior to Exit 71, you still have options. Exit the highway at Exit 70N toward the Oakdale Mall, make a right onto Harry L Drive, and then follow Harry L Drive to Airport Road (at which point you make a left). Or, if you want to avoid Route 17 entirely, take Route 434 or Old Vestal Road to Route 201, and then exit at Harry L Drive, as before.

To keep up-to-date on the Prospect Mountain project, visit its Facebook page regularly here. You can also see how the traffic is looking through the project area before you head out via the DOT’s webcams.

In short, don’t be afraid to drive to campus this fall! You’ll be able to get there with minimal hassle if you do a little planning beforehand.