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City of Rochester Communications Bureau

If I had to name the top two projects at City Hall that get officials excited, they would be Midtown and filling in the Inner Loop.

The mayor frequently talks about how downtown is designed for a fast exit. He wants you to stick around for a while. The Inner Loop is underutilized, cuts off neighborhoods and is a “noose around the neck of downtown.” Filling in the eastern portion of the Inner Loop would free up about 9 acres of land for development and save the city future maintenance costs.

Senator Chuck Schumer has gone to bat to get the city federal TIGER funds. When Rochester was passed over for a $15 million grant last year, Schumer said he’d help the city improve its application. In February, city council authorized nearly $2 million in design work to bolster the 2012 TIGER funding application.

The TIGER application was due in March. The city never submitted it. Instead it only submitted an application for funding for the $26 million intermodal station. The city says the intermodal station is further along in design and has crucial state support. Besides, the city can’t expect to get two big projects funded in the same round.

Funding is not a sure thing for either project. Putting off the Inner Loop application is a risk construction could be delayed a year or more. It will likely not coincide with the marina dig at the port. The fill from the marina was to be used to fill the Inner Loop.

What’s surprising about this development is the city had not touted the intermodal station much until a couple weeks ago when a design was unveiled. It’s not a project anyone talks about with enthusiasm, not even the mayor. The Trailways bus owner said he doesn’t think the station will be built in his lifetime.

There’s only one person who is a champion of the intermodal station: Louise Slaughter. She has always wanted a true intermodal station, one that combined all of the city’s buses and trains in one spot. Many believe Slaughter pressured Bob Duffy to drop his support of Renaissance Square, which didn’t not align with her vision. Several years later, RGRTA is building its own bus station, anyway.

The city says it didn’t put the intermodal station ahead of the Inner Loop at Slaughter’s urging. A mid-afternoon email to her spokesperson wasn’t immediately returned. It’s possible there’s nothing more to this sudden switcheroo than pure strategy to maximize federal dollars. I suspect that’s not the whole story.

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In other news, 90 percent of Chicago teachers authorized a strike. This gives them more leverage at the negotiating table. It’s a rather astounding development, given it’s Jean-Claude Brizard’s first year in Chicago. You may recall, an overwhelming majority of Rochester teachers voted no confidence in his leadership in a union ballot, results backed up by a Center for Governmental Research survey.

Links of the Day:

– Trailways and city officials celebrated the opening of a modular structure on Central Ave. near the train station to serve intercity bus passengers. I mention the fact it’s a pre-fab building because it’s supposed to be temporary.

If the city can secure federal funding, it would like to build a $26 million intermodal facility on the site. The facility would replace the aging, unattractive Amtrak station and serve intercity buses.

Even though the Trailways building is supposed to be temporary, the city spent $1.4 million moving Trailways and Greyhound out of Midtown to these new digs.

But this is site where temporary can quickly become permanent. The Amtrak station was built as a temporary structure – in 1978. I reported for 13WHAM News today:

Trailways owner Eugene Berardi does not view the new station as temporary. As for the intermodal station, he said, “Some day it may (happen), maybe not in my lifetime.”

Rendering of RGRTA Terminal

Meantime, RGRTA plans to break ground in three weeks on its own transit facility. Mayor Tom Richards said studies showed train and intercity bus passengers were not reliant on RGRTA buses, but there will be shuttles between the two facilities.

We’d have a truly intermodal facility, combining rail, intercity and intracity buses if the train tracks were not so far north of downtown. Yes, it’s a quick walk. But the train station is separated from Main St. by a virtual “no man’s land” of a highway and vacant lots. It’s too bad we couldn’t find a way to bridge the gap.

In the meantime, we will have an intercity bus terminal, a intracity bus terminal and a train station. All aboard.

– The New York Daily News hails the governor’s support of decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana in an editorial and a hilarious cartoon.

– Men are looked at suspiciously if they’re alone in parks where children are playing. Now they can’t shop in the children’s section of a bookstore.

– Chicago teachers are voting tomorrow to strike.

– There’s no such thing as a concert selling out 20,000 tickets in 30 seconds.

– I’m not a huge fan of commencement addresses, but this one is worth reading.

– Half the face of a man who’s been driving a truck for 28 years has prematurely aged.

Links of the Day:

– The new train station design is a throwback. The city plans to replace the Amtrak station on Central Ave., which has long been an eyesore. The design released last night clearly tries to mimic the stunning Claude Bragdon station torn down in 1965 (Rochester Subway blogs about the horrific demolition.) We cannot replace that kind of building, but it’s high time we had something pleasing to welcome visitors to Rochester.

I’m not a fan of calling it an intermodal station, as the city desires. It’s a train station that happens to have Greyhound and Trailways buses.

The challenge is to better connect the Amtrak station to the rest of downtown. It’s isolated and not particularly walkable, unless you like walking over treeless overpasses.

Old Train Station

Old Train Station

– Rochester is rather fortunate compared to other metro areas. One-third of adults have college degrees. There’s a growing divide among cities that have access to a knowledgeable workforce and those that don’t.

– Next time New York State politicians say they want to be more business-friendly, don’t believe them. The state is eyeing a huge toll increase for commercial trucks.

 – Rochester was named the 5th “Most-Watched” city, thanks to the plethora of surveillance and red light cameras.