Let’s talk about the Can of Worms.
It’s a classic example of Rochester’s propensity for building big things, only to undo them later. Rochester converted a historic aqueduct to accommodate a subway it later abandoned. Midtown Plaza was torn down within 50 years of opening. The city bought a ferry to Toronto and then pulled the plug. After destroying wide swaths of downtown for its construction, the Inner Loop may be filled in.
But the Can of Worms ranks right up there in civic disasters. The highway was built in 1964 to connect Routes 490 and 590 and provide a link to the Thruway and Seabreeze. There’s a reference to the Can of Worms nickname in a 1965 paper on Rochester street names that suggests the more elegant name of “Brighton Bow Tie.”
Forever known as “The Can,” the complicated interchange featured confusing, short weaving distances. The Can was soon overwhelmed with cars. (Wikipedia and Empirestateroads.com have good explanations on The Can design.)
The Can of Worms was rebuilt from 1987 to 1991 at a cost of more than $100 million. That’s more than $200 million in today’s dollars, a staggering amount of money to fix a boo-boo. There were other costs associated with Rochester’s fast-growing highway system of the 1960s. The neighborhood immediately surrounding The Can, is very disjointed. East and University are all kinds of messed up where they were realigned. The expressways facilitated suburban growth from which the city still hasn’t recovered.
Now the state plans to fix the “Western Can of Worms” at 390 and 490 at a cost of $140 million. The state also plans to build an interchange and make surrounding improvements at 390 and Kendrick at a cost of $100 million. The first project is likely a necessary fix. As for the second project, I question the University of Rochester’s dire need for an exit ramp.
Let’s hope those projects don’t end up on the civic disaster list. We can ill afford to untangle another Can of Worms.