ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Rep. Joe Morelle announced Friday $4 million in federal funding was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives to advance the proposed Inner Loop North transformation project in Rochester.

Raising the Inner Loop north is the next step to re-connecting downtown Rochester with the surrounding neighborhoods, officials say, and it follows the completion of the Inner Loop East project. The Inner Loop East project is acclaimed as a major success by local leaders, and was recently featured in the New York Times as an achievement in removing urban highways to improve American cities.

The congressman said the project’s $4 million was included as part of the House’s recently passed Surface Transportation Member Designated Projects legislation.

“I’m proud to announce that we’ve secured $4 million in federal funding to raise the north section of the Inner Loop to make it a street level boulevard,” Rep. Morelle said. “This transformational project will reconnect neighborhoods on the northern side of the city to downtown.”

According to Rep. Morelle, divided highways built in the midcentury have been detrimental to underserved communities, limiting economic development by cutting off access within the neighborhoods. Left to languish over decades of inaction, these neighborhoods will now be the focus of reunification and investment.

The congressman said the legislation still needs to pass in the U.S. Senate, but added that President Joe Biden has expressed he would sign the bill if it passed. If the legislation does ultimately pass both chambers and gets White House approval, the Inner Loop North transformation project will still need a lot more funding — approximately 10 times as much.

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren, who joined the congressman and local lawmakers in the New York State Legislature for Friday’s press conference, said the $4 million would go towards the study, design and planning phase of the project.

Mayor Warren said that the total development would cost “upwards of $40 to $50 million” to complete.

Inner Loop North concepts

Although a fully funded Inner Loop North transformation project is still ways away, local leaders are excited and optimistic about what this development could mean for the Flower City.

“This project is about righting wrongs of past generations,” Warren said. “The Inner Loop divided neighborhoods and we’re looking to work with those neighbors to build this community to make it better for all of Rochester.”

“I am so grateful for Congressman Morelle’s work in securing 4 million dollars in support for the inner loop North transformation,” said Councilman/Mayor-Elect Malik Evans. “For too long the inner loop has separated our community, and we now have the opportunity to bind all of Rochester’s communities together and spur transformational economic impact. I look forward to the future of the Northern Interloop transformation.”

“Filling in the Inner Loop is an issue of equity and justice,” said Assemblymember Harry Bronson. “It’s about bringing our neighborhoods together, and connecting neighborhoods to downtown. It translates into creating opportunities and translates to connectedness throughout our city.”

“We talk a lot about infrastructure, but this project is infrastructure with heart,” said State Sen. Jeremy Cooney. “It’s about people. It’s not just roads and bridges. This is about connecting people and increasing the quality of life.”

“This project will bring people together,” said State Sen. Samra Brouk. “It’s an opportunity to boost our city and let everyone know this is a place where things are happening.”

“This is one of those projects I look forwards to,” said Assemblymember Demond Meeks. “Projects are not always inclusive of black and brown bodies so as we move forward, we need to make sure everyone has opportunities.”

In June, Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand came to Rochester to voice their support for the project.

“The North Loop projects could be one of the most significant steps towards revitalizing Rochester that we have seen since the Inner Loop East was filled in,” Sen. Schumer said. “And I pledge to all of you, I will use my clout as Majority Leader to get this Inner Loop project funded.”

City officials say filling in the eastern portion of the Inner Loop, with $22 million of public funding, helped generate more than $230 million in private investment, including housing, retail, and an expansion to the Strong National Museum of Play. Officials say that success can be replicated as they turn their focus north.

Sen. Schumer said once the federal funding is secured, the ultimate concepts and designs of the project will be up to the community in Rochester.

Earlier this summer, city engineers and planners kicked off a series of public workshops Wednesday to spark community discussion on the Inner Loop North Transformation Planning Study.

The Inner Loop North study seeks to identify a range of opportunities to “support neighborhoods and community members living and working along the Inner Loop North corridor.”

The public workshops featured preliminary design concepts for discussion on the range of streetscape and transformation, as well as costs. Residents in the vicinity of the project area were invited to the workshops by mail, but all members of the public are welcome to participate.

The project was included as part of the INVEST in America Act (H.R.3684), which passed the House of Representatives in July.

Full press conference

Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.