Inner Loop (Rochester) - History


The idea for a beltway around Rochester was conceived in the 1950s. At the time, the population of Rochester was roughly 332,000, which translated into poor traffic conditions within downtown. Despite some political obstacles, construction on the highway began in the early 1950s. Many structures were demolished to make way for the route, which was constructed in a cut through the densely populated neighborhoods that surrounded downtown. In 1965, an opening ceremony headlined by then-Governor Nelson Rockefeller officially opened the Inner Loop to traffic. The final price tag on the loop's construction was $34 million (equivalent to $251 million in 2012). The southern part of the Loop was incorporated into the newly-constructed I-490 upon completion while the rest is designated as NY 940T, an unsigned reference route.

In the time since the Loop's construction, the population of Rochester has dropped to 219,773 as of the 2000 census—a reduction of a full one-third. As a result, traffic on the Inner Loop has declined accordingly. While traffic volume on the I-490 and northwestern portions of the loop have remained relatively high, the section east of the Genesee River has seen sharp declines in recent years. Proposals to alter this section of the Inner Loop have been presented, but none have been acted upon.

One proposal in 2005, which had mounted merit for federal monetary aid, would have reduced the number of lanes on the loop between Clinton Avenue and Main Street to make room for additional shops and businesses on the streets adjacent to the Inner Loop. Another developed in 2009 called for the portion of the Loop from Main Street to Monroe Avenue (NY 31) to be completely filled in and replaced with an at-grade boulevard. The $20 million project was approved by a city council committee in September 2011; however, a $15 million federal grant application was denied later in the year. As of 2012, Rochester Mayor Thomas Richards wants to spend $2 million on further design work that could strengthen the city's request for federal funding.

The Inner Loop was a prominent feature of "State of the City 2011: In The Loop", a two-month exhibition held by the Rochester Contemporary Art Center in 2011. The event featured various works reflecting on the history of the highway and downtown Rochester and aimed to provoke discussions about the future of the city.

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