ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand joined other local elected officials in Rochester Tuesday to discuss the proposed Inner Loop North transformation 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.”

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.

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.

The Senate Majority Leader said he wasn’t sure of the total amount of money required to fill in the Inner Loop North, but he said he anticipated it would be “significantly” higher than the $16.5 million it cost to raise the eastern section.

“We have a huge opportunity,” Sen. Schumer said. “President Biden has suggested dramatic increases in infrastructure. That money in the American Jobs Plan can transform neighborhoods, and provide the money we need.”

Like the Inner Loop East transformation project, Sen. Schumer says the goal for the northern side would be focused on connecting communities, creating jobs, and generating economic activity in neighborhoods that need it.

“The Inner Loop has not only been a physical barrier, but a barrier to economic mobility,” Sen. Schumer said. “A barrier to jobs, a barrier to small business start-ups — so many different things we need.”

Sen. Gillibrand added that equity is also a focus of the project, specifically aiding the communities of color negatively impacted by the construction of the Inner Loop since it was completed in 1965.

Local officials joining the senators for Tuesday’s press conference included Rochester City Councilmember Malik Evans, who defeated Mayor Lovely Warren in a Democratic primary last week, state Senators Samra Brouk and Jeremy Cooney, as well as state Assemblymember Sarah Clark. The senators were also joined by Rev. Julius Clay, Pastor of the New Bethel CME Church, City of Rochester Commissioner of Department of Environmental Services Norman Jones, Rochester City Councilman Malik Evans, Inner Loop North Transformation Study Community Advisory Committee Member Shawn Dunwoody, and local residents.

“As we seek to expand opportunities in the City of Rochester and break down barriers The Reconnecting Communities Act will address the legacy of highway construction built through communities, especially through low-income communities and communities of color, that divided neighborhoods and erected barriers to mobility and opportunity,” Evans said. “I look forward to this legislation transforming the landscape of places like Rochester and leading to greater opportunity for everyone in our community”. 

The Inner Loop North transformation is a piece of legislation that Sen Schumer and Sen. Gillibrand introduced last month called the Reconnecting Communities Act, which aims to “provide federal investment in construction, planning and community engagement by reconnecting and revitalizing areas that were harmed by the construction of highways through neighborhoods.”

Last month, Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren announced a new federal proposal has potential to help fill in the north section of the the Inner Loop in Rochester.

Schumer and Gillibrand introduced the Reconnecting Communities Act which would “provide federal investment in construction, planning and community engagement by reconnecting and revitalizing areas that were harmed by the construction of highways through neighborhoods.”

Last week, Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren announced an Inner Loop North study will seek to identify a range of opportunities to “support neighborhoods and community members living and working along the Inner Loop North corridor.”

For more information about the Inner Loop North transformation project, visit this website.

Inner Loop North concepts

The Reconnecting Communities Act would provide $15 billion over five years for three categories of grants:

  • Community Engagement, Education, and Capacity Building Grants: These grants would fund efforts to educate community members, build community capacity, identify local needs, form community boards, and engage community members in transportation planning. Funds would expand the ability of community members to participate in transportation and economic development decision-making to ensure investments address community needs. Local and Tribal governments, MPOs, and nonprofit organizations would be eligible recipients of community engagement, education, and capacity building grants.
  • Planning and Feasibility Grants: These grants would fund state and local planning activities to design projects and study traffic, access, and equity impacts, assess the project feasibility, conduct public engagement and environmental review, and establish a community land trust to develop real estate created by the project. State, local, Tribal governments, MPOs, and nonprofit organizations would be eligible recipients of planning and feasibility grants.
  • Capital Construction Grants: These grants would fund construction activities to remove or retrofit an infrastructural barrier in a way that enhances community connectivity, including by capping or replacing it with an at-grade roadway; improving connectivity across a barrier; replacing the facility with a new use like a public park or trail; and other projects that would address the mobility needs of the community. Grants would go to the owner of the infrastructure asset, with whom State, local, Tribal government, MPOs, and nonprofit organizations could partner to be eligible recipients of capital construction grants.

Officials say the Reconnecting Communities Act would establish a grant program at the Department of Transportation to help communities identify and remove or retrofit highway infrastructure that creates obstacles to mobility and opportunity.

This proposal was part of a larger bill, the Economic Justice Act, a proposal that Sen. Schumer introduced last year, along with Sen. Gillibrand, which aims to address systematic racism and historic underinvestment in communities of color in New York and across the U.S. through immediate and long-term investments.

This is a developing story. News 8 WROC will provide updates as they become available.