ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — A new federal proposal has potential to help fill in the north section of the the Inner Loop in Rochester, according to Mayor Lovely Warren.
Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Kirsten 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.”
“Rochester is proof that by removing old underused highways we can bridge what divided us — both literally and figuratively,” Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren said in a Tuesday press release. “By filling in Inner Loop East we built a neighborhood. A $22 million public investment generated over $230 million in private investment, including housing, retail and an expansion of our world-class Strong National Museum of Play. Now, we look forward to the Reconnecting Communities Act helping us create this success again as we plan to fill-in Inner Loop North.”
“In Upstate New York and across the country, highways like Syracuse’s I-81, Buffalo’s I-33, Rochester’s Inner Loop, and Albany’s I-787 have too often been built through low-income neighborhoods and communities of color, displacing residents, dividing cities, increasing pollution, and limiting economic opportunities in impacted neighborhoods,” Schumer said in a press release. “That’s why I am proud to announce the Reconnecting Communities Act – a key part of my Economic Justice Act – to help right these wrongs by identifying and removing these hulking physical barriers to mobility and opportunity. Infrastructure should build up communities, not divide them. This legislation will ensure local communities have the federal resources needed to revitalize and reconnect communities that have been neglected for far too long.”
Specifically, the 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.