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Project Profile: Rochester Inner Loop East, New York, A Freeway to Boulevard

This figure highlights a portion of the Inner Loop project that is on the eastern side of the city of Rochester. The Inner Loop East project is in proximity to Broad Street, East Main Street, East Avenue, and Monroe Avenue. The Inner Loop East project adopted a complete street design and created a two-lane boulevard that completely encircles the city of Rochester. The Inner Loop East Transformation Project converted a sunken section of expressway to the east of downtown Rochester to an at-grade "complete street," that will include bicycle and walking paths.

Rochester Inner Loop East project area.

Source: Credit to the City of Rochester, New York

Project Name

Rochester Inner Loop East, New York, A Freeway to Boulevard


Rochester, New York

Project Sponsor / Borrower

City of Rochester

Program Areas Public-Private Partnerships Project Finance Value Capture
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


$22 million

Funding Sources
  • $17.7 million, USDOT TIGER Grant
  • $3.8 million, State of New York
  • $414,000, City of Rochester
Project Delivery / Contract Method


Private Partner
  • Design: Stantec Consulting Inc.
  • Construction: Concrete Applied Technologies Corporation (CATCO)
Project Advisors / Consultants
  • Stantec Consulting Inc.
  • Concrete Applied Technologies Corporation (CATCO)
  • New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT)
  • Monroe County Department of Transportation
  • Genesee Transportation Council MPO


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.

  • Reconnecting east side neighborhoods with the downtown business distric, improving pedestrian and bicycle mobility, and providing an overall revitalized corridor.
  • Transform surrounding developable land surrounding the loop into a mixed-use community development that would provide Rochesterians and visitors with the places to work, live, and play.
  • Freed land from the project could support new mixed-use developments, valued between $8 million to $11.5 million, while bringing in new property taxes for Monroe County, the City of Rochester, and local institutions.
  • In order to encourage sustainable economic growth and create a more livable Downtown, Rochester reconstructed a 2/3 mile stretch of the eastern segment of the Inner Loop between Monroe Ave and Charlotte St into a high-quality complete city street.
  • The new at-grade street will tremendously enhance the area's livability, allowing people to easily walk and bicycle between neighborhoods and downtown.
  • Engage elected officials starting with the local level. Local support is critical for creating consensus. Received many letters of support from the community including real estate developers, neighborhood groups and business associations.
  • Produce a myriad of benefits including increasing traffic safety, supporting healthy lifestyles and improving livability, reconnecting neighborhoods with downtown, promoting development, saving money on maintenance
  • Planning is critical to build credibility and consensus even before formal design and engineering work is done since NYSDOT knew the city had plans for the Inner Loop, they held off on making any significant changes to the roadway in anticipation of broader work to be done.
  • Preparing a specific cost-benefit analysis was also critical for showing how the proposed changes would benefit the community.
  • The City lead the push to drive changes for the community.
Related Links / Articles

Erik Frisch
Transportation Specialist, City of Rochester

The Inner Loop East logo incorporates two designs. On the left is pictured a plain black-and-white depiction of a two-lane highway. On the right is a newer, more modern depiction of the same highway with vibrant colors, trees, and modern buildings in the background. The Inner Loop East logo has the words "From Barrier to Beautiful."

The Inner Loop East Transformation Project.

Source: Credit to the City of Rochester, New York

This is an aerial or elevated view of the Inner Loop project area showing roughly six acres of undeveloped land with a roadway on one side and a parking lot and development on the other. This land will eventually be converted into usable space for pedestrians, bicyclists, and others.

The removal of the Inner Loop freeway opened up six acres of land for development.

Source: Credit to the City of Rochester, New York

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