New Rochelle getting $12M to turn Memorial Highway swath into High Line-style open space

NEW ROCHELLE — The city is getting $11.96 million to turn a portion of the six-lane Memorial Highway into a walkable and bicycle-friendly street with open space, including an elevated linear park in the mold of New York City’s High Line.

The federal money is the final puzzle piece, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in announcing the grant. The project received $6 million from the state last year and has more than $15.4 million in non-federal matching money.

Known as the Linc, it will help the city’s economy, increase access to services, and reconnect the Lincoln Avenue neighborhood with downtown, Schumer said in a statement.

The Linc would  replace portion of Memorial Highway with a five-zone, walkable path connecting Lincoln Avenue to the library.
The Linc would replace portion of Memorial Highway with a five-zone, walkable path connecting Lincoln Avenue to the library.

“Transforming this highway into a useable city street, filled with a park, bike paths, and streetscape improvements is a win-win-win for New Rochelle,” Schumer said. “The federal government will finally help to advance equity for New Rochelle residents while creating jobs, and transforming a dangerous highway into a vibrant public space.”

The project includes:

  • Turning Memorial Highway’s east-west overpass into the elevated park with pedestrian and bicycle accommodations.

  • Building bike and pedestrian areas on Memorial Highway, including on the overpass from Exit 16 to the Memorial Highway roundabout.

  • Changing three roads that are currently two-way to to one-way streets.

  • New signalization at key intersections.

  • Improving storm-water drainage.

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Mayor Noam Bramson said the city is "tremendously grateful" for the grant, "which will enable us to accomplish one of the most significant and transformative initiatives in our city’s history."

The Linc "will repurpose a portion of Memorial Highway into a linear park, bind together the Lincoln Avenue neighborhood with New Rochelle’s burgeoning downtown, and enable better, safer access to transit and employment, while also creating an expansive new open space and recreational amenity for tens of thousands of residents," he said adding that the combination of the federal grant with state money already allocated through the downtown revitalization initiative makes this plan possible.

Kathleen Gill, New Rochelle's interim development commissioner, said: “From the very beginning, the Linc has been a collaborative endeavor with not only our partners in Albany and Washington but with thousands of residents who continue to provide invaluable perspectives that are helping to shape this new public amenity.

The federal money announced for the project is from the U.S. Department of Transportation's RAISE grant program.

Built in the late 1950s, Memorial Highway was initially meant to connect Interstate 95, the Hutchinson River and Cross County parkways.

“However, only the first phase of the antiquated highway project was ever built, leaving an overabundance of infrastructure that delivers traffic from Exit 16 of I-95 to New Rochelle’s local community roadways,” Schumer wrote in a July 12 letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

And the highway severed residents of southwestern New Rochelle, especially in the Lincoln Avenue neighborhood, from community resources and downtown job opportunities, he said. The highway became a physical, socio-economical and psychological barrier.

Michael P. McKinney is a breaking-news reporter for the Journal News, the Poughkeepsie Journal, and the Times Herald-Record of Middletown. Follow him on Twitter at mikemckwrite.

This article originally appeared on Rockland/Westchester Journal News: New Rochelle to turn Memorial Highway into High Line-style open space