WXXI AM News

"Rewater the Erie" Plan to get Serious Study

Rochester, NY – A plan to demolish much of Broad Street across downtown Rochester and restore the historic path of the Erie Canal will get some serious study from the city.

Congresswoman Louise Slaughter put up to eight million dollars in the federal Water Resources and Development Act for Rochester to use in studying the Erie Canal Redevelopment Plan.

Erie Canal Society President Tom Grasso and architect Rory Zimmer came up with the idea a year ago. Grasso says it would be an "engine of economic revitalization" for downtown Rochester. He says development and revitalization follow waterfront property, and an historic recreation of the original Erie canal could be "liquid gold" for Rochester. But Grasso says even the biggest supporters think the idea needs a careful study before anyone jumps in.

Mayor Robert Duffy says it's not certain that Rochester will actually do this, but the idea needs a serious look. Duffy says the formal study will show if the downtown canal idea makes economic sense. He says it could bring the type of development seen at Corn Hill Landing on the Genesee River all the way through downtown Rochester.

But after Rochester's flop with the Lake Ontario fast ferry service, Mayor Duffy says he's learned not to move without real economic data.

Broad Street was the original path of the Erie Canal for its first 80 years. The Zimmer-Grasso plan calls for getting rid of the street and putting water back in the historic canal bed. The Broad Street Bridge would lose its top deck and be turned back into a canal aqueduct. Boats would be able to travel from a lock on the Genesee River under the Rundel Library, then across the historic aqueduct. From there they'd pass beneath the level of downtown streets to the area of Frontier Field, where there could be a boat basin and a marina.

Mayor Duffy says the eight million dollars Congresswoman Slaughter has brought in is enough for study and planning, but not enough to build. He also says such a plan would have to be done in stages to spread out the cost, even with federal and state help.