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Schumer, Gillibrand chasing hundreds of millions for Inner Loop project


U.S. Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand say they’re all in on removing and replacing the Inner Loop.

City officials have been working on plans to replace the northern half of the highway for over a year and released design concepts for it last week. Those concepts include green space, housing, expanded parks, and in one design, a tunnel.

Just steps from the highway on Scio Street, Gillibrand said Tuesday that it's time to hit restart on the Inner Loop and the neighborhoods around it. Gillibrand said the Inner Loop’s construction, like many urban highways, split many minority neighborhoods into pieces.

“It made it harder for people to get to jobs, harder for people to get to different parts of the community and harder to be able to essentially earn their fullest potential and live their greatest potential,” Gillibrand said.

“For Black and brown communities or low-income communities, none of this infrastructure was built for them," she continued. "It was built for everyone else.  And so unfortunately, we now have this legacy that we have to unwind."

Gillibrand said changing that legacy begins with President Joe Biden’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure plan, which features $25 billion for projects in neighborhoods affected by transportation investments like highways. The money, if the bill is passed, would be earmarked for marginalized communities. Senators agreed to compromise on the bill last week.

Schumer would not provide an exact dollar amount for the project but said he expects it to be much larger than the $16.5 million federal grant that helped fill the eastern part of the Inner Loop seven years ago. He also said the money should come with strings.

RELATED: Can Biden's infrastructure plan bury the Inner Loop for good. City Hall hopes so.

“When we get these hundreds of millions of federal dollars, we want to make the jobs, these new construction jobs, go to the people in the community,” he said.

Schumer promised he would work to remove the highway. He called it destructive, noting that hundreds of buildings were torn down to build it six decades ago. He said it's time to reconnect Rochester.

“You know what the Inner Loop is, it's a sunken moat-like physical barrier through the middle of this city,” Schumer said. “I pledge to all of you, I will use my clout as majority leader to get this Inner Loop project funded.”

Gillibrand and Schumer said two more bills they hope to include in the infrastructure package would provide funding for just about every part of the project and those like it around the county. They said it's a way to address underinvestment in communities of color.

James Brown is a reporter for WXXI News, a media partner of CITY.