Posted by: Bob Williams, VP of Advocacy
After tasting some success during the last round of the USDOT’s TIGER grant program ($15 Million was awarded for Rochester’s intermodal station), the city has jumped back into the aptly named moat with another application that we at Reconnect Rochester are extremely excited about. There is a very conscious effort afoot on the part of city staff to rid us once and for all of a sizable portion of the Inner Loop, that underutilized sunken ring road and choker of downtown connectivity.
While the Intermodal Station took precedence in the 2012 fight for funds, this most recent expressway removal proposal is the best we’ve seen yet. A financial winner just on its face, in terms of reducing future maintenance burden, the latest from city hall is very serious about reconnection and reintegration. Take a look at the latest design draft…
Inspiring aspects of the new design are seen right away in the width of the proposed new Union Street. With the appropriate number of two travel lanes, parking lanes, and pedestrian protection, immediately more development potential is realized. This treatment has also been extended to long-forlorn Howell Street as well, which can only serve to better connect the new Union Street district to the eclectic Monroe Avenue. The general straightness and adherence to the grid is vastly improved compared to a previous draft, but what this really lends itself to, and what has us most enthusiastic, is the possibility of Montréal-style two-way cycle tracks as seen in the description and rendering on pages 6 and 7.
The potential to create enticing developable and taxable land is a well known aspect of the proposal, but in terms of eliminating future infrastructure liability, this project pays for itself. According to the application document, the money needed to maintain four expressway lane miles, three multi-span (and structurally deficient) bridges, 16,000 square feet of retaining walls, and other accessories such as guard rails, traffic signals, etc. will no longer be the responsibility of the State of New York and can be utilized to address more pressing needs. Lifecycle costs to maintain a state of good repair of the existing 1960’s-era infrastructure are estimated between $19.1 and $26 million.
One tiny nit-pick: it is possible that we may have a case of “roundabout fever.” While the Howell/Union roundabout seems like a reasonable response to the complexity of the intersection and an opportunity for a district gateway, the Charlotte Street roundabout may have the opposite of intended effects.
This installation, as shown in the preliminary design drawing, does a number of deleterious things. First, the Union Street dynamic is undermined by steering the lanes and sidewalk away from the existing frontage. Second, the roundabout is seriously land-intensive, cutting into a solid connection both West and North. Third, and perhaps most importantly, is an inability to extend the cycle track from end to end of this new priority corridor.
But hey, we’re understanding people, and if the roundabouts are a “must” we’ll take what we can get.
Now, before we give this plan our kiss of approval, we wouldn’t be Reconnect Rochester if we didn’t advocate for absolute greatness. So let’s take the City’s draft design one step further by removing the Inner Loop all the way up to Main Street…
Rather than terminate ramps into the Charlotte Street roundabout, a true restoration of Union Street would consolidate the Main Street entrance/exit into a single terminus. A noteworthy aspect of this revision from Albany’s budgetary point of view, would be the removal of the Main Street overpass. This bridge would now be unnecessary.
And a fun side benefit for Rochester would be the reconstitution of Anderson Park. This is where the city once gathered to light its communal Christmas pine! …Of course we’d also add a Menorah and Kinara 😉
PLEASE ATTEND THE PUBLIC INFORMATION MEETING TODAY!
Purpose: to discuss the Inner Loop reconstruction project and solicit feedback on design alternatives.
When: Wednesday, August 28, 6:00 – 8:00pm
Where: Council Chambers, City Hall, 30 Church St.