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Remaking Rochester’s Inner Loop

If you’re at all familiar with Rochester, then chances are that you’re familiar with the Inner Loop. When I was in college I had a buddy who lived in Rochester, and I would occasionally pick him up on the way to college and then drop him off when I was heading back to Buffalo for break. I’ll never forget the ordeals that I had when attempting to navigate the Inner Loop, or as my friend referred, “Can of Worms”.

Now Rochester is in the midst of freeing up the city from the bonds of The Inner Loop. The Democrat and Chronicle has a great article on the formations of the loop during the city’s peak population, and the urban issues that it later contributed to during the city’s decline (read article). It’s a fascinating lesson regarding the ill effects of urban renewal, and how a series of roadways can have a stranglehold on a city.

Buffalo should be paying close attention to this project. Whether it’s the access and exit ramps leading to and from The Skyway, the Kensington Expressway, the 198 (both rip apart our city), or the 190 that hugs the Niagara River (I am dumbfounded that The City is still not looking at that disastrous issue)… we should be fighting for these types of large scale infrastructure initiatives. Scaling the Scajaquada Expressway down to a boulevard (crossing fingers) is just one step, and we better do it right. Rochester has been battling its own demons for as long as Buffalo… and the city is finally reaping huge rewards.


Written by queenseyes


Newell Nussbaumer is 'queenseyes' - Eyes of the Queen City and Founder of Buffalo Rising. Co-founder Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts. Co-founder Powder Keg Festival that built the world's largest ice maze (Guinness Book of World Records). Instigator behind Emerald Beach at the Erie Basin Marina. Co-created Flurrious! winter festival. Co-creator of Rusty Chain Beer. Instigator behind Saturday Artisan Market (SAM) at Canalside. Founder of The Peddler retro and vintage market. Instigator behind Liberty Hound @ Canalside. Throws The Witches Ball at The Hotel @ The Lafayette, and the Madd Tiki Winter Luau. Other projects: Navigetter.

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  • No_Illusions

    Well you cannot just demolish these highways. Like it or not the city
    depends on many of these arteries. Sure we could easily get rid of the
    198 and parts of the 33, but how can we get rid of the 190 when we have
    one of the busiest border crossings in North America?

    It will take a TON of planning and money but it is feasible.

    can downgrade the 198 just fine without much repercussion. Easy, and
    from my understanding this will be done within the next few years.

    What about the 190?

    need to ban truck traffic from the Peace Bridge. In order to do so we
    can build a second span that connects to the 190 near the GM plant. Once
    this occurs from the Tonawanda border to downtown, we can get rid of
    the 190.

    Ideally, if we could get a metrorail extension
    to at least the GM plant it would make things even better. Better yet
    is if we organize a commuter rail service between Depew Station and
    Niagara Falls Station with multiple stops along the way. in heavily
    populated areas like the City of North Tonawanda or the Westside as well
    at places that employ a lot of people such as the factories in
    Tonawanda or Rich Products.

    We can easily get rid of
    the 190 from Larkin to downtown if we just expand the Metrorail to
    Larkinville. Short, easy, and increasingly needed.
    What about Route 5?
    the Metrorail through the First Ward (the ROW already exists), through
    the Green Energy Campus and loop it to the Union Ship Canal where we can
    build yet another Park and Ride.
    What about the 33?
    33 could also be downgraded into a parkway. If we extended the
    Metrorail past Larkin, past the Central Terminal, put a large Park and
    Ride near the Galleria Mall and have it go to the Airport (and maybe
    slightly beyond to the business parks) then this is also doable.
    we’ll be getting people into the habit of using public transportation
    whenever they enter the city. This will also allow the city to develop
    with a higher density over time.

  • IONU

    At leastif you goingto tell peoplehw things sould be from your Queens eyes, Learn where the “can of worms” really is Rochester

  • Matt Marcinkiewicz

    gracelessly stated though it might be, he is correct:

  • Matt Marcinkiewicz

    (correct that the “Can of Worms” expression does not refer to the Inner Loop)
    I’m more familiar with Henrietta than Rochester itself, as my own Rochester-area college friend experiences involved RIT visits, but the short video included above sure makes the Inner Loop look like an even worse version of the 33).  I do think I found myself driving on it at some point although my memory is foggy–the roads around the downtown area did seem a can of worms to an out-of-towner if not The Official Can of Worms

  • Buffaboy

    No_Illusions You can demolish and reroute several of them.
    I’ve made plans in the past (I’m in school for Civil Engineering), here are some:

  • props to rochester.
    there are folks around (i am not one of them) who remember the battle to keep buffalo from building the same kind of loop.  in the 1970s, west side residents, many of them hispanic, stopped the city from slamming through a highway along virginia to connect the oak/elm arterials to niagara st.  it would have destroyed allentown.  it is an unsung preservation victory.
    today no one would argue that allentown is choked by traffic congestion because that highway was never built.  traffic behaves like a gas – it expands and contracts depending on how much space your city decides to allocate for it.
    highways are non-places.  we should be investing our scarce infrastructure dollars in places..  here is someone who says this better than i could.

  • No_Illusions wrote:
    “Well you cannot just demolish these highways.”
    actually, you can just demolish highways:

  • Buffaboy

    These are still good ideas however.

  • CharlesKibby

    I go to Rochester for business and things should be pointed out.  (1) The downtown population and use is not like Buffalo and has no hope of even getting close.  (2) the inner loop has never been “Busy” EVER.  (3) Most people work on the outskirts of the city, at the university locations or the burbs.  
    Making assumptions that our downtown access can be removed when it brings people in to spend time and money is ridiculous.  On a Saturday I’m not spending 45 mins. going through 30 lights to get to downtown when now it’s a 15 min. trip and I’m at Canalsiide and the Liberty Hound or eating at Spot on Chippewa or going to the town for breakfast.  
    People forget that there is a level of care here and some things are needed.   If it did not take 2-4 hrs during snow to get to Orchard Park or Hamburg when it snows then maybe I’d say tear it down, but south buffalo roads cannot handle the 22K+ cars at rush hour.

  • 300miles

    I’m curious why this project in Rochester has gained so much traction, while the same discussions in Buffalo about the 33 have gone nowhere.

  • No_Illusions

    Nowhere in the article says anything about busy international borders that would send thousands of trucks into residential neighborhoods.
    The Peace Bridge is a major obstacle for removing the 190 period.

  • Matt Marcinkiewicz

    although I’m no great fan of Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Binghamton, and Utica strike me as either worse (Rochester) or far worse (all the rest).  Niagara Falls can get included in the latter category if desired.  I have never been to Albany, and I’m semi-curious to do so simply to see whether I’d say it’s worse or far worse (at this point to me it’s a foregone conclusion that it’s either/or).
    Only decent upstate “city” I’ve seen between here and Vermont is Ithaca, and even that…seemingly comparable to but clearly inferior to Burlington, VT.  I can’t speak to NYC northern exurbs

  • OldFirstWard

    ” in the 1970s, west side residents, many of them hispanic, stopped the city from slamming through a highway along virginia to connect the oak/elm arterials to niagara st.  it would have destroyed allentown.  it is an unsung preservation victory.”
    I would love it if BR would resurrect the history of that fight. I’d love to see and read the documentation on that issue from verified source materials.

  • Matt Marcinkiewicz

    OldFirstWard grad94 
    Your picture in the Just Fries thread–what year was it taken?  You may have unsubscribed.  I’ll pretend it wasn’t personal, even if it was

  • OldFirstWard

    On a slightly off topic front as I was reminded by the 190 references below, I was driving home last week on the 190 from Buffalo State, and as I passed the transmission line towers by the Peace Bridge I was thinking about if the power company could ever remove them because they are unsightly and obstruct views from the overlook. But I quickly concluded that it would probably never happen.  
    Then this weekend I see they are removing not only the wires but the towers as well.  Though they plan on rebuilding them in the near future.  Maybe I’m psychic.  But I do believe that this should be something that is discussed in a public forum.  Do we want to see new towers and power lines located in that prime location or should it be moved down river towards the railroad bridge. How about a topic on this BR?

  • keetz4

    Matt Marcinkiewicz CharlesKibby I am curious what you mean by worse or far worse.

  • Matt Marcinkiewicz

    keetz4 Matt Marcinkiewicz CharlesKibby 
    Don’t be too curious.  It’s entirely subjective/arbitrary.  Just my own initial sense of what the QOL in these places is or might be.  If Buffalo gets a B-/C+ then Rochester gets a D+ and the rest get Fs.  Obviously specific life circumstances anywhere can cause a massive margin of error from this baseline assessment–plus or minus five grade points?  (if we say that A+ to A is one point)
    This continues to be entirely subjective.  Hopefully though if nothing else it might underscore how subjective the intuitive QOL assessments of other people are as well.

  • CharlesKibby

    OldFirstWard We often forget that a ton of cities and towns have a river or valley that needs to be crossed.  So selling power and other utilities require the river to be crossed is normal.  These are major lines and being 100 years old and still needed is impressive.  We sometimes forget that Buffalo is a true gateway to Canada where more than just people travel back and forth across the border.

  • BuffaloBoi

    My grandmother used to tell me how at one time, Riverside Park actually went all the way to the Niagara River before the 190 was built. But, the ‘pros’ thought a highway was a better use.

  • BuffaloBoi

    No_Illusions Over all, an extended Metro Rail (create a ‘system’) in the city and region, we wouldn’t have to rely on our cars since NFTA is only interested in it’s Airport Property.

  • Mark_P

    The existing Buffalo radial street grid handled the same number of cars in the 1950s that roads like the 33 handle now, and typically only add a few minutes to any drive done by highway.. minutes spent on roads that could really benefit from additional traffic and business.
    Even more importantly, if your commute is longer and your destination is better, you’ve just built in value at the core, instead of lowering it for the convenience of someone choosing to live farther away.  There should be an opportunity cost for choosing where to live.

  • Matt Marcinkiewicz keetz4 CharlesKibby
    Here’s some cliff note of the above: Matt has an opinion that no one cares about, and loves to give letter grades to convey his “sense” of a collection of unrelated upstate NY cities but include no specifics or relevance related to this article.

  • bradman

    300miles The 33 is more comparable to I-490 in Rochester than the Inner Loop.  (The Inner Loop is more comparable to the 198).  Whereas 33 and 490 are both major thoroughfare expressways, the Inner Loop doesn’t really serve a purpose other than to provide more convenient access to the north side of downtown and the city proper (since 490 runs to the south of downtown).  It’s narrow, winding, poorly designed and not heavily used.  They can remove it and almost no one would miss it.  The 490 will likely never be removed, not only because it’s the only highway to access downtown Rochester itself, but because Rochesterians use it to get from one suburb to another and drive past downtown entirely (ie: they live in Chili or Greece and work in Pittsford or Victor).

  • this_potatoe

    OldFirstWard they are not being replaced they were 25 cycle power that was still used here by some manufacturing plant when everything else went to 60Hz some time back….those lines havent been used in YEARS

  • TreborNeroht

    That’s so exciting! Gives me hope for Buffalo to do the same with our underused throughways.

  • JasonHaremza

    CharlesKibby What is Buffalo’s downtown population?  Rochester’s is over 6,000 residents and expected to be over 7,000 in a few years.  Almost 50,000 people work in downtown Rochester every day, making it the single largest employment cluster in the 9 county Genesee-Finger Lakes Region.

  • Matt Marcinkiewicz

    Fortunate4now Matt Marcinkiewicz keetz4 CharlesKibby 
    You’re aware that life is meaningless and I can say whatever the fuck I want to say?  Thanks, buddy.  Fortunate for now, indeed.

  • CharlesKibby

    JasonHaremza CharlesKibby There’s at least 58,000 people who work in downtown Buffalo, with a base of around 10,000 residents in the Downtown and Waterfront areas.  If you look at within 3-miles there’s over 120,000 residents.  Also, I don’t think this includes Larkinville where another few thousand are now working.

  • bufguy

    The highway would have connected the 33 from its exit from Goodel all the away across the west side to the entrance to the 190 at Carolina. That’s why there is that oversized entrance from Niagara Street at Carolina to the 190. This would have been the connector from the 190. Can you imagine a 6 lane expessway cutting through Allentown effectively cutting off downtown from the west side. Hudreds of homes, businesses, and other buildings would have been destroyed.
    The residents formed the West Village Historic Preservation District that was one of the instruments in preventing this devastation…..I know Preservation obstructs progress!

  • bufguy
    thanks for the details!  i had only a sketchy sense of what took place.

  • JSmith11

    CharlesKibby Rochester has about 5,000 residents in the downtown CBD. How many is Buffalo up to now? My impression is that Rochester has actually been doing a better job at building residential downtown than Buffalo.

  • Berzele

    300miles A big factor in getting funding for removing this portion of Rochester’s Inner Loop is the high cost of repairing the many bridges and the sunken road in that section. Tearing it out is actually costing LESS than repair would, plus it puts a lot of property back on the tax rolls.  Given that surface streets can easily handle the traffic load, that makes it an easy financial argument.  Maybe the 33 in Buffalo has different financials?

  • dwg

    Don’t get too excited people.  This is another public works project in Rochester that is doomed to fail just like the Fast Ferry Project, the High Falls Project, the Marina Project, Sahlen Stadium, etc, etc, etc.  These “projects” are just a way to steal money from the tax payer for the construction unions, so they can contribute to the democratic party.  Period.  None of this has ever worked and none of this will ever work.  The inner loop project was sold as a $7 million cost.  It has cost $22 million so far (ooops!).  And, they have no idea what to do with the ares once it’s complete.  Can you imagine spending $22 million on a project and not know why you are doing it in the first place???  The reason no one goes downtown in Rochester is very easy to understand: 1) all the businesses left or went bankrupt, 2) it’s a ghost town and there is nothing to do there, and 3) it’s dangerous and you may die!!!  What a joke.