Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Inner Loop East Reconstruction and Realignment

The City of Rochester recently sponsored a TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grant application. This represents the first outward sign that the administration seeks to attempt to heal this tremendous scar on the map. More on the specifics to come, but I'd like to talk a bit about the other grants applied for by New York State and the trend in those awarded nationwide.

According to the Federal Department of Transportation:

"The TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) Discretionary Grant Program was included in the Recovery Act to spur a national competition for innovative, multi-modal and multi-jurisdictional transportation projects that promise significant economic and environmental benefits to an entire metropolitan area, a region or the nation. Projects funded with the $1.5 billion allocated in the Recovery Act include improvements to roads, bridges, rail, ports, transit and intermodal facilities."

Municipal bodies, authorities, and the state DOT submitted applications for 60 different projects. Somewhat interesting, but not surprisingly, six of the nine applications submitted directly by the DOT were highway related. The two that were rail related were extremely notable, so much so that the Moynihan Station application, attempting to rectify a 50 year national disgrace, was the only New York project awarded federal funds this year.

The other New York rail-related DOT application was incredibly ambitious, but incredibly intelligent. Requesting 'only' $29.3M of the $56.35M total cost, a project entitled, "Restoring the
Rail Freight System in Upstate New York's Economically Distressed Region
," would 'rehabilitate critical rail freight tracks and structures to a State-of-Good Repair on portions of 17 of the 21 short line railroads serving the economically distressed Upstate New York region to protect existing jobs supported by these services, as well as to position these railroads and areas for future growth.'

While it is unfortunate that Rochester's sole project wasn't included for immediate federal funds, a pattern emerges in those projects which did receive funding that for once does not pay lip service or ignore the stated mission of the discretionary grant program. Just 17 of 51 projects are geared toward motorway improvements. Cities such as Tucson, New Orleans, Detroit, Portland, and Dallas will see streetcar installation or improvement. Numerous multi-modal facilities will be built in smaller cities across the Midwest. Rail corridors as well as their interface with seaports will be enhanced. Even 15 years ago this list would have looked something like this:

  • I-4 FL
  • I-5 CA, OR, WA
  • I-8 CA, AZ
  • I-10 ... you get the idea

Back to Rochester and the Inner Loop project.

Unfortunately the areas mentioned for fill in only include Monroe Avenue to Charlotte Street. It seems as though the emphasis is still on car movement, retaining the connection from the new boulevard to 490 East via the goofy South Avenue 1-leaf clover. Also, if this was ultimately phase 1 of an inner loop retro-fit, why not go all the way to Main Street and restore the original path of University as well as the other half of Anderson Park?

Page 22 has some figures attempting to illustrate the concept of "reclaimed land" that concern me. The unnecessary curving of the boulevard creates a situation where some of Union St. will be dug up for absolutely no reason. On top of this, I believe a maximum of reclaimed is achieved by pasting the boulevard to Union and attempting to restore the orthogonal grid.

Gardiner Park only connects to the northbound segment of the boulevard, in much the same way Atkinson connects to Ford on the phony edge of Corn Hill. Broad Street looks like its being routed through Dryer ALLEY for connection with Alexander. Ugh.

Maps exist that describe in great detail the way this once was and is supposed to be. Why is that so difficult for today's planner who insists on leaving their idiosyncratic marks on absolutely everything?

But, you know what? As I said in a comment on the RochesterSubway blog, fill the damn thing in and we'll argue about the particulars of reclaimed land later. This all shows some amount of enlightened thinking on the part of those with the power to shape our future built environment.

I feel the urge to end this installment with some over-the-top historically significant rhetoric. Read into it what you want.

"Any city gets what it admires, will pay for, and ultimately deserves...We want and deserve tin-can architecture in a tin-horn culture. And we will probably be judged not by the monuments we build, but those we have destroyed." (New York Times Editorial - October 28, 1963)


RochesterSubway.com said...

Good analysis UrbanChamp. Today I asked the planning department what this financial setback means for the future of the project. They seem optimistic... "we are confident that the project meets and exceeds all of USDOT’s goals and that, should there be another round of TIGER, the Inner Loop will compete well for funding."

They also said funds could come from the "National Infrastructure Investment Program” and the current “Jobs Bill” that is now stuck in Congress.

So, we wait and see. Ho hum.

Howard Decker said...

This whole city is SO shovel-ready!

Man About Town said...

From what I understand, the City's Inner Loop proposal was a long-shot because it's still stuck in the initial scoping phase. You have to remember that the Loop is a State facility, so they had to spend a lot of time convincing the State and Federal folks that the project is feasible.

I expect that, as the City moves into the engineering and design phases, you'll a) see a much more refined vision of what the raised Inner Loop could be and b) have a chance to comment on and potentially shape the project. Or I could be completely wrong.