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Congresswoman Louise Slaughter calls for continuation of federal infrastructure program

Tianna Manon/WXXI News
Congresswoman Louise Slaughter spoke with local businessowners about the TIGER program. The incomplete Inner Loop was behind them.

A federal program that helped fund the new Rochester train station and the filling-in of the Inner Loop could be eliminated, according to Congresswoman Louise Slaughter.

On Thursday, the Fairport Democrat spoke outside of Hart’s Local Grocers about the importance of the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery program.

TIGER, as it’s better known, provides federal funding essentially for construction projects that repair aging infrastructure or use transportation to grow the economy.

Slaughter says she pushed for the grant twice in one year, using it for the construction of the train station and to fill in the Inner Loop.

“We are certainly living in an America which was planned and built at least 100 years ago,” she said. “We’re very grateful to the people who were able to build those tunnels, those bridges, those roads, but they never did intend for them to last for a century.”

She pointed to the American Society of Civil Engineers to argue why the program is necessary. She said they gave the United States a D+ on its infrastructure, mostly because of its age. 

“The proof of it’s importance is all around us. But we are concerned that in the budget…it eliminates the funding for the TIGER grants which is pretty serious,” she said. “We see roads and bridges and tunnels crumbling before us.”

The Inner Loop was originally built in the 1960s. At the time, officials said it’d help the city’s poor navigate the city better. But according to city officials, it only blocked off the city’s center, creating a large concrete “moat” that dictated the edges of downtown.

Credit Tianna Manon/WXXI News
Glenn Kellogg, owner of Hart's Local Grocers, discusses how the Inner Loop project benefits his store.

“We’re very happy to be reconnected to our neighbors in Park Avenue and Neighborhood of the Arts.,” said Glenn Kellogg, owner of Hart’s Local Grocers. He’s been a vocal supporter of the filling-in of the Inner Loop. “With these improvements Hart’s is now only steps away from these neighborhoods and we’re able to offer a full-service grocery store within walking distance to Park Avenue, Neighborhood of the Arts as well as downtown residents.”

However, Trump disagrees federal funding is the best way to improve the infrastructure. In his budget proposal he wrote:

“Simply providing more Federal funding for infrastructure is not the solution. Rather, we will work to fix underlying incentives, procedures, and policies to spur better, and more efficient, infrastructure decisions and outcomes, across a range of sectors, including surface transportation, airports, waterways, ports, drinking and waste water, broadband and key Federal facilities.”

“The benefits of the project I think are clear,” said Slaughter. “Not only will it help the businesses represented her today but the cost savings speak for itself. The annual maintenance was $156,000 each (bridge). If we chose to reconstruct the Inner Loop in its former state the cost would’ve been 30 percent higher than replacing it with this new project.”

Trump’s budget has not been passed yet but the TIGER program is one of those facing possible cuts in the Department of Transportation.