Meet a Roundabout: I-494 and U.S. 169

West 78th Street roundabouts near the intersection of I-494 and US 169.

Traffic moves smoothly at the West 78th Street roundabouts on the north side of I-494. Video: Author

Last Monday, I drove my father to a doctor’s appointment in Edina. We don’t usually travel these ways, but his regular general practitioner was on vacation.

At the intersection of Interstate 494 and U.S. 169 are six linked roundabouts surrounding the freeway interchange.

Interchange of I-494 and U.S. 169 with six roundabouts. Northeast is up. Map: Google Earth

Interchange of I-494 and U.S. 169 with six roundabouts. Northeast is up. Map: Google Earth

The two-lane roundabouts — with dedicated lanes for going either right or through/left — have a diameter of about 145 ft (44 meters). Single-lane roundabouts — with separate right slip lanes — have a diameter of 130 ft (40 meters). The diameters appear to be designed to improve traffic flow and not slow down traffic by reducing the frequency of yields.

Crosswalks at roundabout near interchange of I-494 and US 169.

Crosswalks at roundabout. Photo: Author

The roundabouts were part of “MnDOT’s $125 million make over of the I-494 and Hwy. 169 interchange in Eden Prairie” that was completed in fall 2012.

The project overall was a finalist for the “American Transportation Award given out annually by the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials in concert with AAA and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce,” according to the Star Tribune.

“Transportation” doesn’t seem to include bike lanes, bus lanes or pedestrian bridges.

Streets.mn is a non-profit and is volunteer run. We rely on your support to keep the servers running. If you value what you read, please consider becoming a member.

, , ,

9 Responses to Meet a Roundabout: I-494 and U.S. 169

  1. Tom Dixon July 29, 2019 at 3:20 pm #

    It took me a couple drives through there before I could come out the other end where I intended. It’s ridiculous in my humble opinion.

  2. Eric Anondson
    Eric Anondson July 29, 2019 at 7:30 pm #

    My recollection was that this design came out of the Pawlenty administration’s “starve MNDOT” stance. Yes it was completed under Dayton, but the length of time designing these things go through, it was chopped down to this back then. Notice the lack of ramps from southbound 169 to westbound 494, and no flyover ramps from eastbound 494 to northbound 169.

    This was the compromise design because 212 is so close they rationalized that there would be so little demand for those movements, but not no demand, that they could still offer those routes but not the expensive engineering of the flyovers

  3. Adam Froehlig
    Adam Froehlig July 30, 2019 at 8:03 am #

    The roundabouts were the result of wanting to retain access to the frontage roads but not have traffic signals.

    I also have to ask Conrad what he means by this statement:

    “The diameters appear to be designed to improve traffic flow and not slow down traffic by reducing the frequency of yields.”

    • Conrad Zbikowski
      Conrad August 2, 2019 at 1:12 pm #

      A larger diameter means that cars entering the intersection are farther apart and can more easily enter and exit without slowing down or yielding.

  4. Sean Hayford Oleary
    Sean Hayford Oleary July 30, 2019 at 8:43 am #

    These aren’t my favorite roundabouts, both because the bike-ped scene isn’t great, and I really find them fairly confusing to navigate by car, too.

    The best thing I can say about them is how tight it allows the frontage roads to be to the interchange itself. Washington ave is only 1000 ft west of mainline 169. The north and south frontage roads are only 500-700 feet away.

    If you compare that to 100/Normandale and 494, the closest E-W crossing is 3000 feet to the west, and the E-W crossings are 1500/2000 feet away.

    35W/494 is similarly bad — 2500 feet each way to a north-south crossing. Thus, if you’re on foot, bus, or bike, it’s a solid mile between crossing points in this fairly dense area.

    When interchanges are built in areas with lots of destinations (or themselves attract lots of destinations), I think it’s important to build surface access near the mainline freeway interchange. 169/494 excels at this.

  5. Cobo R July 30, 2019 at 9:37 am #

    Not great, but way better than what was there before..

  6. Laurie August 1, 2019 at 3:52 pm #

    Hahaha! My office is at the the northwest corner of this thing. One of the things that makes me laugh is that there are sidewalks in some places that are not really connected to anything. I did once see an electric scooter sitting by the roundabout under the flyover on the southeast corner. Who would scoot to that location and then leave it there to travel by what means????

  7. Walker Angell
    Walker Angell August 1, 2019 at 4:59 pm #

    I’m generally a big fan of roundabouts, at least how they are implemented in The Netherlands, Sweden and much of the rest of Europe.

    U.S. implementation, and Minnesota in particular, creates much more danger and delay for people walking or riding bicycles. At busy times in the morning or evening some MN roundabouts may require a wait of 10-30 minutes for a safe gap in traffic.

    Ped/Bike crossings are also often placed too close to the roundabout where a driver may be looking for merging traffic rather than for people in a crossing. This is particularly a problem when a slip lane is included.

    Some good info on Dutch roundabouts is: http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2014/05/the-best-roundabout-design-for-cyclists.html

    Note that if the peak hour (not AADT) will have more than 1500 vehicles that a grade separated bike and ped path must be provided. Most Dutch engineers begin considering this if the peak hour will be greater than 700 and few will now include surface crossings if the peak hour is above 1100 due to complaints from people who found it difficult to safely cross when there is more traffic.

    • Walker Angell
      Walker Angell August 1, 2019 at 5:02 pm #

      BTW, I think those traffic volumes are for any one arm, not the entire roundabout.

Note on Comments

streets.mn welcomes opinions from many perspectives. Please refrain from attacking or disparaging others in your comments. streets.mn sees debate as a learning opportunity. Please share your perspective in a respectful manner. View our full comment policy to learn more.

Thanks for commenting on streets.mn!