[UPDATED] Monroe merchants fight Inner Loop plan 

A recent change made to the plans to fill in a portion of the Inner Loop is upsetting members of the Monroe Avenue Merchants Association.

Specifically, vehicles would not be able to make a left turn onto Monroe from the new Howell Street. The street would be created by combining the current Howell and Pitkin streets into a single, two-way street. A pedestrian island would also be added on Howell.

Merchants Association President Moira Lemperle says that the plan would hurt businesses in that area of Monroe Avenue and that it runs counter to everything the city is doing to draw people and business to Rochester.

"The majority of the people that make their living on Monroe Avenue want [the turn]," Lemperle says. "The city wants businesses in the city. They want people to come to Monroe Avenue. And we want it to be made easy."

But city project manager Paul Way says that there are many alternate routes available, that very few people would turn left at that intersection, and that the city wants to open the Monroe-Chestnut-Howell intersection for all users, not just cars.

"This is a transformation project," he says. "We're trying to transform what is an expressway right now into a multimodal street that works for all users. The island announces to every driver that's going through that intersection that this intersection is important for pedestrians."

The City of Rochester received a $17.8 million federal grant to fill in the loop between Monroe Avenue and Charlotte Street. The city is contributing approximately $6 million to the $27 million project.

Built decades ago to help people get around downtown, the loop has subsequently been an object of derision for cutting up neighborhoods and separating downtown from the rest of the city. The project will make a significant amount of land available for development.

The Monroe Avenue turn will be discussed at a 7 p.m. meeting today (Wednesday, April 23) at the Center for Youth, 905 Monroe Avenue. It is one item on a longer agenda. There is also talk of setting a meeting specifically on the left turn issue, but that hadn't been settled as of this paper's deadline.

One of the final meetings on the Inner Loop project as a whole is on Tuesday, May 6, in the lodge at Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park, 353 Court Street. There will be two sessions: 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., and 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The city's Way says that the latest project designs will be on display.

UPDATE Thursday, April 24: People wanting to make a left turn onto Monroe from the new Howell Street will be able to do so, after all, although there may be time restrictions.

The State Department of Transportation has jurisdiction over the Monroe-Chestnut-Howell intersection. The State DOT has told city officials that it's OK with allowing left turns there, says Paul Way, so the turn is back in.

"We're thrilled, and very grateful," says Moira Lemperle.

There may be time restrictions on the turn, however. The turns could be prohibited from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Mondays through Fridays, Way says, to avoid rush hours. The city is waiting on a consultant's opinion before deciding, he says.


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