by Max Brantley
ROCHESTER — Almost 60 years ago, this upstate city finished digging a deep trench for a highway bypass, a lauded effort to help speed residents out of the central city and into its suburbs.A similar idea has been proposed by a number of progressive thinkers in Little Rock rather than the highway department's vision of more lanes and more concrete. For their trouble, they've been hooted at by those who know better. The business establishment says it is in our interest to shave a few seconds off the time of those who commute to suburbs with their disposable income, school children and concerns about the "safety" of Little Rock, no matter what this might mean to abutting neighborhoods and cross-city traffic circulation.
Today, Rochester is effectively burying that 20th-century devotion to vehicle efficiency and committing the old highway’s right of way to the city’s recovery.
Rochester is completing a $23.6 million project that fills in almost a third of the 2.7-mile sunken highway and replaces it with an at-grade boulevard and nearly six acres of prime land for development.
Though cities like Boston, San Francisco and New York have removed elevated and surface highways, decisions that cleared the way for housing and office construction, leaders here say Rochester may be first to fill in a section.