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Inner Loop project may happen in phases, Warren says

Inner Loop West sign on Scio Street in Rochester.
Max Schulte/WXXI News
Inner Loop West sign on Scio Street in Rochester.

Just weeks after lawmakers in Washington shrunk one of its potential funding sources, Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren said the city is considering replacing the Inner Loop in phases.

The project would be one of the largest in the history of Rochester, spanning 22 acres with cost estimates ranging between $70 million and $300 million.

On Friday, Congressman Joe Morelle (D-25), announced a $4 million commitment from the federal government for the project. Warren said the money would be spent on designing the project, continuing community outreach and understanding the conditions beneath and around the highway. 

Previously, the late Assemblyman David Gantt acquired $1 million in state funds for the project.

Despite its power, Morelle said the impact of infrastructure on communities is often overlooked.

“It has a huge impact on the physical design and layout but that also means in this case it keeps people apart, and has done countless damage over the years that we seek to right,” Morelle said. 

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But Morelle acknowledged that $4 million isn’t quite enough and said he’ll push for more funding which the city had done, prior to Friday. But things changed when Congress came to an agreement on President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan. 

In Biden’s initial plans, unveiled this spring, $20 billion was expected to reconnect communities separated by highways. In early August, the senate agreed to $1 billion for the fund.

On Friday, Warren said the city is considering a piecemeal approach to the project with a smaller price tag: between $40 million and $50 million.

“Getting that kind of money just for the city of Rochester may be a challenge. And so we're looking at how do we do this in phases. That can be beneficial, connecting the initial neighborhoods, and the school (World of Inquiry School)” said Warren. “The assemblyman, David Gantt, described this as being a catalyst for revitalizing the northern half of our city.”

She said no decisions have been made on which parts of the project would start first. But Warren mentioned two options for replacing the Inner Loop: filling the highway and replacing it with streets or turning the highway into a tunnel with room to build on top. 

She said keeping access to Route 490 is important because businesses in the area depend on highway access.

More inner loop designs are expected in October. 

James Brown is a reporter with WXXI News. James previously spent a decade in marketing communications, while freelance writing for CITY Newspaper. While at CITY, his reporting focused primarily on arts and entertainment.