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Report: Inner Loop among nation’s worst urban highways

Rochester’s Inner Loop is one of America’s worst urban highways, according to a new report from the Congress for the New Urbanism.

In Freeways Without Futures 2017, the nonprofit ranked the 10 worst highways nationwide. Three roads in New York made the list, including the Scajaquada Expressway in Buffalo and I-81 in Syracuse.

Congress for the New Urbanism, based in Chicago and Washington, D.C., noted highways such as the Inner Loop have inflicted major damage on cities by isolating neighborhoods and creating barriers to opportunity and connectivity. When urban freeways near the end of their lifespans, the report advises, cities can save money by investing in economically productive placemaking strategies instead of costly highway replacements.

“Across the U.S., cities are grappling with what to do with crumbling and aging highway infrastructure: Do we rebuild or remove?” President and CEO Lynn Richards said. “Do we sink another 50 years of our resources into concrete and asphalt? Or do we invest in a beautiful, accessible, people-friendly alternative—and seize this opportunity to improve air and water quality, reconnect people to opportunity, reverse urban blight and save millions in taxpayer dollars?”

And while Rochester works to fill in the Inner Loop, the nonprofit suggests that completing the fill-in and replacing the remaining stretch with a boulevard could be a low-cost way to revitalize struggling areas, improve walkability and urban vitality and avoid costly maintenance fees in the future.

Cities have been successfully removing urban highways since the 1970s, but the practice has gained momentum in recent years. In 2016, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced the Every Place Counts Design Challenge, an initiative to help cities rebuild connectivity around urban infrastructure.

John Norquist, a former mayor of Milwaukee, said replacing urban expressways with surface boulevards improves traffic distribution while saving tax dollars and adding value to local tax bases. Milwaukee successfully replaced an elevated downtown freeway.

“Research has shown that removing in-city freeways makes residents healthier, strengthens local economies, opens up land for parks, creates opportunities for development and can even ease local traffic problems,” Norquist said.

(c) 2017 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or e-mail rbj@rbj.net.

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