- Briefing Room
Rochester Inner Loop East, New York, A Freeway to Boulevard
Rochester, New York
|Project Sponsor / Borrower||
City of Rochester
|Value Capture Techniques||
Asset Recycling & Reconnecting Communities Initiative
Highway-Inner Loop East Removal (Section Removal)
Description The Inner Loop East Transformation Project converted a sunken section of expressway to the east of Downtown to an at-grade "complete street," that will include bicycle and walking paths. The 2.68-mile, 12-lane I-490 Inner Loop Highway in Rochester, New York, was built in the 1950s to circle the city of 330,000's central business district. To make way for the highway, officials demolished 1,300 homes and businesses. At the same time, the Federal government constructed Interstates 490, 390, and 590 to the south, west, and east of downtown. Since that construction, Rochester has shrunk to about 210,000 and the Inner Loop Highway is seen as a major physical barrier between the declining downtown and nearby densely populated neighborhoods. Because some sections of the highway could be served by modest urban avenues, parts have been targeted for replacement.
Rochester began planning to eliminate the Inner Loop East and replace it with a boulevard in 1990. In 2012, the city was awarded a $17.7 million United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant to replace the Inner Loop East, which brought the highway between Monroe Avenue and Charlotte Street up to grade, and created a two-lane complete boulevard with street parking and bicycle lanes on either side of the street. In addition to filling in a portion of the six-lane sunken expressway, the project converted the existing surface-level streets that run alongside the Inner Loop into green space and land for redevelopment. The city eliminated 12 lanes of roadway designed exclusively for high-speed traffic, freeing up 5.7 acres of land for mixed-use development along a new, walkable boulevard. The redesigned corridor includes landscaping, protected cycle tracks, wide sidewalks, and frequent crosswalks.
The design reconnects nearby residential neighborhoods to the East End, a vibrant downtown district, by restoring the portions of the street grid formerly blocked off by the Inner Loop. The project construction was completed in three phases. Phase 1A involved filling in the Inner Loop and building west side of Union Street, while Phase 1B focused on building the east side of Union Street. Phases 2 and 3 involved building the abandoned Pitkin Street and Monroe Avenue/Chestnut Streets, respectively.
The renovation freed nine acres of land for new development and raised $229 million in economic development, creating over 170 permanent jobs and over 2,000 construction jobs. It also increased walking by 50 percent and biking by 60 percent.
In 2021, the U.S. House of Representatives approved $4 million in funding to transform Rochester's Inner Loop North into a street-level boulevard. The project aims to reconnect northern neighborhoods to downtown. The Federal funding will support the study, design, and planning phases of the project, which is estimated to cost up to $50 million to complete.
Reconstructing the Inner Loop East from an expressway to a complete street will produce a myriad of benefits, including:
Increasing Traffic Safety: The project will eliminate multiple, non-standard features and three federal-aid bridges, two of which are structurally deficient and in need of major rehabilitation.
Supporting Healthy Lifestyles and Improving Livability: By providing a boulevard with wide sidewalks and dedicated bicycle facilities while leveraging mixed-use infill development, the project encourages bicycle and pedestrian activity, helping to create a more livable and sustainable community.
Reconnecting Neighborhoods with Downtown: It will remove a significant barrier to redevelopment in the East End, one of Rochester's most important downtown districts, and reconnect thriving east side neighborhoods with the downtown area.
Promoting Development: Completion of this project is expected to open roughly six acres of land to mixed-use redevelopment, which could leverage an additional 430,000 to 800,000 square feet of commercial and residential space. Reclaiming this land will raise local tax revenues, create jobs and generate private investment. The Benefit-Cost ratio of this project is conservatively estimated to be between 1.9 and 2.2.
Saving Money: Maintenance of this portion of the Inner Loop would exceed the cost of filling the loop in and creating an at-grade street, while providing none of the benefits listed above
|Project Delivery / Contract Method||
|Project Advisors / Consultants||
|Duration / Status||
1965 (Inner Loop Completed); November 2014 (Removal Begins); December 2017 (Removal Completed)
|Financial Status / Financial Performance||
Project completed in December of 2017, with ongoing additional construction anticipated associated with new development in this area.
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