Undoing a huge mistake — the Rochester Inner Loop boulevard proposal

Better! Cities & Towns

The Inner Loop is a 2.75-mile-long freeway that put a noose around the downtown of Rochester, New York.

Begun in the 1950s and completed in the 1960s, the Inner Loop was meant to speed access in and out of downtown, but it goes nowhere. It knocked down blocks of neighborhoods and cut the downtown off, completely, from the rest of the city.

The Inner Loop wasn’t the only damaging planning idea in the middle of last century — a good deal of pedestrian-unfriendly urban renewal also took its toll. Today, downtown Rochester is, at best, a shadow of its former self.

The upside is that Rochester has a lot of potential for renewal. That potential is exemplified in the Inner Loop East project, which seeks to convert a two-thirds of a mile section of this highway to a boulevard with mixed-use development.

The city has applied for a $14.7 million competitive TIGER grant from the US Department of Transportation for the project. The total project is $21.9 million, with the city proposing to kick in $5 million and the state $2.13 million.  

It has been described as “The best urban highway removal being planned in America today is the one the national media hasn't picked up on: Rochester's Inner Loop East project.”

There's competition for that title, but the project is certainly worth checking out in this video: