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Road Rage

February 25th, 2010

In Oregon, a battle raged for nearly twenty years over the construction of a highway project, proposed by the once acclaimed city planner Robert Moses. If approved, the Freeway would have removed more than 1% of all housing stock in Portland. In the mid 1970s, after the proposal’s defeat, the city opted to build a mass transit infrastructure instead. The result can be seen today in the form of a more pedestrian-friendly and livable city.

Robert Moses, American urban planner, with a model of his proposed Battery Bridge.On the opposite side of the country, Clarence Eckerson Jr. lives next door to the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. His neighborhood was literally and figuratively trampled by the “vision” of Robert Moses. Watch the video above (from Streetfilms.com) and travel to Portland with Clarence to see how his own Brooklyn neighborhood might look today, had it not been for the Robert Moses master plan external link.

Rochester can also draw parallels to this story. Interstate 390 as it is today forms the “Outer Loop” together with I-590, encircling the city and it’s immediate suburbs. But did you know that I-390 was supposed to continue north—running parallel to Clinton Avenue—all the way up to I-490 at Goodman Street? It’s true. Rochester’s beloved Swillburg and South Wedge neighborhoods were nearly shattered by the same mindless “planning” that destroyed countless NYC neighborhoods at the hands of Robert Moses.

Original plans have interchanges at Elmwood and Clinton Avenues. Along 490 between Goodman Ave and Clinton Ave downtown, there is a wide patch of land parallel to the current 490 which would have been feeder lanes for 390. Fortunately, the project was cancelled in the 1970s thanks to public opposition and I-390 was instead rerouted to meet I-490 west of the city.

A photograph of a map showing the proposed outline for the Inner Loop. The Inner Loop was proposed in 1947 as part of the Rochester arterial plan, which also included plans for the Outer Loop and connecting expressways. The Inner Loop would be a circular highway surrounding the downtown business district and relieving traffic congestion downtown. Demolition for the Inner Loop began in 1952, and the project was completed in 1965.
That’s not to say that Rochester emerged unscathed from the nation’s highway building frenzy. The “inner loop” is arguably the best example. It’s construction leveled entire city blocks and has only served to choke off the downtown core from its surrounding neighborhoods. But I’ll leave you with a bit of good news—this blunder of city planning is about to be reversed. See the Inner Loop Reconstruction Project (PDF). I can hardly wait!

See also Rochester’s Case for a Streetcar Line.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, February 25th, 2010 at 11:21 pm and is filed under Transit + Infrastructure, Urban Development, Video. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

16 Responses to “Road Rage”

  1. twoeightnine says:

    The same thing almost happened in Philly. South Street and the neighborhoods around it would have been destroyed.

  2. admin says:

    @twoeightnine, I’ve only been to Philly’s downtown once and but it was really quite beautiful. Drove up Broad Street and was blown away but the City Hall building. Then over to the art gallery so I could run up the steps and yell YO ADRIENNE! In all seriousness though I just found out that Philly has a streetcar/subway line. Maybe it’s time for another roadtrip!

  3. twoeightnine says:

    I used to work for the downtown business improvement district there doing urban planning. http://www.centercityphila.org. They’re responsible for how downtown is now. The subway is disappointing. Only two lines, serious lack of stops. The streetcar is decent but only one line that runs in a section that is currently half good/half bad.

  4. Ride the streetcar in Philly – it’s great. Go from west to east thru the city and connect with the subway – it’s a terrific experience.

  5. Bob says:

    As usual Portland shows the brainwashed the way.

    That PDF is good to see. That looks like the grant application. Any idea the status of the $?

    The boulevard as drawn is unnecessarily complex. They could do a better job restoring the old street grid and reclaiming land, but they are still a little fixated on moving motors…whatever. Fill the damn thing in, we’ll argue about the particulars later.

    Looks like they hang their hat on bridge structural deficiency. If I knew that’s all it took, I’d be banging on that 2nd 490 ramp at South with a sledgehammer every night.

  6. admin says:

    HA. I’ll be right over with my crowbar Bob.

    I have no idea what the status of the TIGER application is… But I’ve got a shovel and a whole lot of dirt ready to go if funding falls thru.

  7. Phill says:

    Unfortunately it looks like the application was not awarded the funding. I think the Moynihan Station project in NYC is the only project in NYS to be awarded funding this year. It looks like the city will have to apply again next year. This could be a good thing for our crusade though.
    I could be wrong, so I’d ck my work.
    CK out:
    https://www.nysdot.gov/recovery/sponsors/tiger

    And this pdf lists all of the Tiger projects it awarded money to on 2/17/10.

    http://www.dot.gov/documents/finaltigergrantinfo.pdf

  8. Bob says:

    I started to write a lengthy comment on the topic of Inner Loop removal and by the time I was done, I figured it would form the better portion of a blog post, so I did that instead…

    http://urbanchamp.blogspot.com/2010/03/inner-loop-east-reconstruction-and.html

  9. Sam Kay says:

    Whom ever wrote this article (not noted) seems like they bought the whole PBS “evil” Robert Moses / thruway system destroyed our beloved neighborhoods. What a bunch of bull. They were on the most part on the decline when these systems were built. The monies paid the owners of the properties allowed them the option of moving to new neighborhoods that had far less crime. These thruways made life easy convenient and efficient. On a whole a vast improvement to our nation. Yes some neighborhoods were leveled and some split. Now we seek to “restore” them. Good luck attracting private investment to violent crime and drug infested areas. Dream On Dreamers.

  10. @Sam, you may say this thinking is “bull,” however, NYSDOT and the City of Rochester don’t agree with you. Since this story was written a plan to remove Rochester’s Inner Loop and “restore” the old street grid has been adopted and paid for. Phase 1 of the highway removal project will begin this month. Your timing is excellent!

  11. Sam Kay says:

    @RochesterSubway.com The NYSDOT and the city didn’t agree with me regarding the fast ferry or midtown’s hole in the ground or any # of failed “urban rejuvenation” projects. That doesn’t mean I’m right and they are wrong. It’s just a waste of other peoples money. Money spent so short term politicians can look good. The long term reality is bleak for poor small cities. Why can’t Americans accept that small cities with plenty of cheap land surrounding them are in decline because PRIVATE SECTOR money isn’t spent there anymore. Urban renewal will never happen in poor small towns unless TAX DOLLARS are wasted trying. I live on the Inner Loop in the area that is going to be “revitalized”. I invite you to come to this neighborhood in 7 years. Then we can discuss whether 100 million dollars of Americans money was worth their idea of creating a “new thriving neighborhood”. Your naivete is comical.

  12. @Sam, you’ve got many of your facts mixed up. For one thing, the project isn’t 100 million dollars. It would actually be more expensive to repair the Loop than to remove it. So you tell me, which would you rather pay for? I’ll take the less expensive option; the one that has been proven by thousands of years of city building.

    The Inner Loop was a failed 1950s experiment – similar to your Midtown Plaza shopping mall or Fast Ferry. It sounds like you haven’t come to terms with that yet.

  13. The only comical naivete in this thread is the complete ignorance regarding the racism that drove (pun intended) all of this: the ignorance of the blockbusting, of the contract sales, of the fires and insurance settlements, of the redlining and the mobs, the firebombings and then the wholesale clearing for anything else.

    The only reason it’s “our” money now is because we took everything there was to spend of “theirs.” If you want to make a stink about the inner loop fill in, please, for the love of God, point out how deeply cynical it is. That it is the good neighborhoods being stitched back together before the ones hurt the most. Also, there’s plenty of private invest in “those” neighborhoods, it’s just the kind of investment designed to bilk, and ultimately tie down the poor folks living there. Maybe one day Rochester can see more investment like this: http://www.citylab.com/housing/2014/10/in-americas-poorest-city-a-housing-breakthrough/380912/ and less investment like this: http://www.homesteadnet.com/SiteContent/PropDetail.aspx?N=0&S=NYS&Id=27117048&vidx=W7I1sHAsS43kY0RDf_-k4g2&t=YzP56WEdKF41

  14. Sam Kay says:

    M Denker. There is so much going on in your statement it would take a week of correspondence to sort out. Racism drove what? The reason I believe the poorer areas are not being tied in is because the objective is to revive the downtown area. They want the East End / East Ave. and Monroe Ave. areas to raise the amount of money and investment activity in the downtown neighborhood. I think if they could they would also connect the south wedge and corn hill areas with more continuous neighborhoods instead of bridges over highways. The reason the North and West parts of Rochester are not being tied in is because of a lack of thriving neighborhoods. They have a few blocks of vacant commercial and industrial zones. These are generally avoided by pedestrian traffic which is what they want downtown to have. Also lets admit that liveable and thriving are different. Thriving usually means the real estate can only be afforded by the top 30% paying tenants. I don’t think any area in Rochester is overpriced or thriving. We have areas that have fewer vacant buildings than others. The type of investment you point to as a positive example I think is the most important part of the renewal project that’s missing. The city’s most important job I think is to develop and support that type of investment.

  15. Sam Kay says:

    Rochestersubway.comYou have your facts wrong 100 million is a low estimate on how much the total government investment will be. The $16 mil the feds kicked in is just the start. Total: $20,995,036
    Federal (TIGER): $16,781,036
    State Match: $3,800,000
    City Match: $414,000. In the next 15 years the total government investment is projected to be over $100 mil. Please expand upon how this project is like 1000’s of years of city building. Also explain how the Inner Loop failed in it’s goal. Then tell me which lie you believe about it’s repair cost. (no bid projections) Oh yeah saying the Inner Loop was a failure is like saying the Rochester Subway or Midtown Plaza were a failure. They both served a needed purpose in their time.
    I’m still trying to upset you.

  16. @Sam please cite your source for the $100 million figure. I don’t know if you’re reading something about possible future subsidies for development plus possibly one day filling in the northern stretch of Loop – but in any case, this Inner Loop East project we’re talking about is more like the $21 million figure you mentioned.

    As for the estimated cost to repair this section of Inner Loop as it is now, go on the NYSDOT website, look at current road projects to get an idea for how much things cost. A single overpass bridge repair project will run you $4 million. You can search through recent resurfacing jobs in Monroe County and see how much that costs. Then tally it up for this project… 3 bridges, retaining walls, onramps, rebuilding 12 lanes or what ever it is… If you can do that for under $21 million go pitch it to the City.

    Successful cities are ones that are built for walking. Urban highways have done nothing to revive our neighborhoods. That’s what we can take from 1000s of years of city building.

    And no, you’re not upsetting me. This is a dialog.


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