Competing approaches to names

Naming our Highways

Competing approaches to names

Northbound just south of the Minnesota River. Competing approaches to names.

I grew up in Northfield, and Cedar Avenue was a common route from Northfield into the Twin Cities. The name isn’t signed between the Northfield border and Eureka Township, but I knew it by no other name. In fact, I remember my parents having to explain to me, when I was first learning to drive: “just follow the signs for 23… 23 is Cedar.”

So it’s caused me almost endless frustration, since moving north of the Minnesota River, that folks nearly always refer to the freeway portion of Cedar as “Highway 77”. Although as an urbanist I naturally lend more value to a city street than a freeway, it seemed to be awfully Minneapolis-centric to only lend the name of this long-established route to the street within the city limits.

Since first noticing the differences in usage of 77 versus Cedar Avenue, I’ve also taken note of many other differences in local names versus signage on freeways and other major trunk highways. Other than Cedar/77, the most established appear to be TH 62 Crosstown and TH 55 Hiawatha Avenue.

Does giving a highway a local name enhance community identity? Or does it dilute the value of a name?

And now, my list, based entirely on my own impressions and findings. Please add comments if you know of others, or find any errors.

Highway number Historical or current name Usage?
MN-3 S Robert St /
Robert Tr
Name seems to be used north of Dakota County Road 42.
MN-5 Fort Rd /
W 7th St
W 7th St name is used heavily in the City of St. Paul. Freeway portion through Fort Snelling, and through the concurrency with I-494, does not seem to be called Fort Road. Note that the TH 5 freeway bridge is called the Fort Road Bridge.
MN-13 Sibley Memorial Highway Name is signed in City of Eagan and Mendota. Only appears to be used actively in Mendota.
I-35/35W Lyndale Avenue
(Historical) /
Bloomington Fwy
Runs concurrent with Lyndale Avenue south of the Minnesota River, but I have never heard anyone refer to 35/W as Lyndale.
US-52 Lafayette Freeway Used extensively locally, especially to describe the Lafayette Bridge. Freeway was built prior to US 52 being routed on it. Not signed on freeway.
MN-55 Hiawatha Avenue /
Olson Memorial Highway
Signed heavily on Hiawatha Avenue segment. Olson Highway name is signed in North Minneapolis and Golden Valley. Hiawatha name is heavily used; Olson Highway less-so, especially outside Minneapolis.
MN-62 Crosstown Highway /
The Crosstown
Not signed on freeway. Name used on some local signs, as well as Mn/DOT press releases. Used extensively locally.
MN-47 University Avenue Signed heavily within City of Minneapolis. Highway 47 seems to be more common name in highway-like portions.
MN-65 NE Central Avenue Signed heavily, especially inside 694. Central Avenue name seems more common, especially through Minneapolis and Columbia Heights. Central Avenue diverges from TH 65 north of 694.
MN-77 Cedar Avenue Signed at all junctions except 66th St, Diagonal Blvd, and Mall of America Junction. Cedar Avenue name seems to be used more extensively south of the Minnesota River. Extends as Cedar Avenue both north and south of freeway portion.
MN-100 Normandale Road /
Beltline Highway /
Lilac Drive
Normandale Road (Blvd) is used south of I-494, but this highway seems to be mainly referred to as Highway 100. Google Maps does call it Beltline Highway.
MN 149 Dodd Road Name seems to used, at least in Mendota Heights. Signed at interchange with 494.
I-394/US-12 Wayzata Blvd No signage on freeway. No significant local usage (except for frontage roads) that I am aware of.

Note: Updated table based on comments.

Sean Hayford Oleary

About Sean Hayford Oleary

Sean Hayford Oleary is a web developer and planner. He serves on the Richfield City Council, and previously on the city's Planning and Transportation commissions. Articles are written from a personal perspective and not on behalf of Richfield or others. Sean has a masters in urban planning from the Humphrey School. Follow his love of streets, home improvement, and all things Richfield on Twitter @sdho.