“Rethinking I-94,” Galaxy Brain-Style

Screen Shot 2019 12 11 At 12.09.53 Pm

A still from the TPT films, showing the MnDOT apology ceremony for the destruction of the Rondo neighborhood.

For a few years now, MnDOT, the state’s transportation agency, has been promoting its “Rethinking I-94” plan, making a big deal out of hand-wringing and soul searching about the future of the state’s busiest and most urban freeway. I’ve gone to a few meetings about it, and — in a rare television appearance — I was actually in the TPT documentary on the subject. I was interviewed as a local freeway history expert and then as part of a “Rethinking I-94” focus group that took place in the TPT studio. I’ve had many conversations over the years with some of the key members of the MnDOT team, and they are, for the record, nice and smart people.

The infrastructure of the state’s core urban freeway has reached the end of its lifespan. It’s been 60 years since many working-class and POC neighborhoods were bulldozed to create Interstate 94, and a generation or two since its construction displaced or harmed tens of thousands of people. Before literally replacing everything along the freeway (i.e. what’s happening these days on I-35W), the agency is undergoing a prolonged series of public engagement and relations exercises. Questions included in the scope of the report include how to “enhance safety and mobility for people walking, biking, driving and using transit.” Or, alternately, how to “develop a community-based approach focused on reconnecting neighborhoods.”

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A slide from the report depicts the “rethinking” process.

But really, the study’s dominant question focuses on congestion. There’s too much congestion, the study repeatedly points out. That framing of the issue leaves little room for much actual “thinking outside the car.”

Infrastructure is hard like that. It’s difficult to imagine changing a status quo when so many people use it every day. Instead, the urban freeway becomes a constant background in people’s lives, so that it’s nearly impossible to imagine our city without a six- or eight-lane freeway going through the middle of it.

Galaxy Brain 94

WWGBMD?

Meanwhile, MnDOT is pushing an expansion of I-94 out of north Minneapolis that would only increase traffic on the freeway. Meanwhile, County Public Works agencies like Ramsey County are adding lanes to 94-adjacent infrastructure like the Dale Street bridge replacement, which will make it only more dangerous to cross the street by the freeway ramps.

Given these recent actions, my prediction is that, when the rubber meets the road, the legacy of “Rethinking I-94” will be reduced to “Rebranding I-94.”

I doubt anything car-related will change significantly. The agency will continue to offer the barest of improvements to pedestrians or cyclists. And I predict that the dominant focus of funding and policy will be on “reducing congestion” for drivers, which –because of the bind of induced demand — presents a nearly impossible goal in an urban core.

But what if that wasn’t true? What would an actual “rethinking” of our state’s busiest and most destructive urban freeway look like? In other words, What Would Galaxy Brain Meme Do?

 

Level 0: Rethinking I-94 for Who?

Rethinking 94 Meme 0

Let’s set the galaxy-meme baseline at the MnDOT “rethinking” status quo, being charitable about the outcome of this effort. The absolute minimum level of “rethinking” would add some measure of pricing to the freeway. At the very least, you’d have to find space for Mn-PASS/bus-only lanes in the right-of-way. Ideally, and economically, you would accomplish this by taking away an existing travel lane.

Here’s a fun fact: In the not too distant past, I-94 had one less travel lane, devoted to buses during rush hour. (Technically it was a shoulder, but you get the gist.) Travel lanes were expanded following the I-35W bridge collapse in 2007, and the freeway has stayed that way ever since.

Barring big political changes at the agency, this likely is the best-case scenario for what MnDOT might actually do, along with throwing in a few pieces of public art along the pedestrian bridges. In all probability, the agency won’t even take a travel lane for this project and will instead try to expand the freeway somehow. Keep in mind, due to the Lowry Hill Tunnel, this is impossible through downtown Minneapolis.

Either way, this is a pretty weak “rethinking.” Let’s do better.

Level 1: Rethinking I-94 for Whom?

Rethinking 94 Meme 1

Freeways do not begin and end at their literal edges. Limited-access freeways are part of a system of high-volume and high-speed traffic that connects into and onto city streets. That’s where a next level of rethinking could occur.

How do you change the freeway on- and off-ramps to lower speeds as people drive into and out of pedestrian-oriented city streets?

To my eye, the ramps and de facto frontage roads of I-94 are full of opportunities to reduce speeds and free up valuable land for humane, urban uses. Freeway on-ramp areas are statistically the most dangerous places to bike or walk, and the agency could adopt improving safety and reducing driving speeds as their first priority here, and only secondly consider how to reduce congestion.

“Rethinking I-94” in this way would involve removing some ramps altogether. At minimum, I would suggest the 10th Street ramp in downtown St. Paul, the 4th Street viaduct in downtown Minneapolis, and the 6th Street on-ramp on the east side of St. Paul. Removing these unnecessary ramps would free up lots of land in key spaces, as well as dramatically improve the safety and quality of life for people who live or move near them.

That could be just a start. Which other ramps are unnecessary and dangerous?

What would happen, for example, if you got rid of the supremely dangerous on- and off-ramps at Lyndale Avenue South? A 4-3 conversion on that terrible road would be so much more feasible.

Overall, ramps need to be dramatically altered to be safe for people walking, biking or living nearby. The on- and off-ramps that funnel speeding drivers into downtowns or neighborhoods are death traps that degrade the safety and quality of life for thousands of people every day.

What if we calmed the ramps at places like 6th Street in downtown Minneapolis, or Washington / Broadway avenues in north Minneapolis, or the I-94 on- and off-ramps that speed drivers past St. Paul’s largest homeless shelter? You don’t need to close freeway ramps to make them dramatically safer, but tightening lane widths and turn radii would help a lot.

To do this right, nearly every sidewalk and street corner that abuts an agency freeway ramp should be tightened and calmed, with “porkchop islands” removed. The goal for an agency that is “Rethinking I-94” should be to create clear symbolic demarcations and physical protections between the high-speed, low-access freeway spaces and the low-speed, high-mobility urban areas.

In other words, it should be nearly impossible to drive faster than 25 miles per hour until you actually get past the on-ramp stoplights. It should be impossible to take a corner off of the freeway, or to accelerate through a busy intersection to get into the freeway faster, and critically injure a pedestrian.

Design details can make this dream a reality, and if MnDOT did this, the agency would create a model for a safer, less-harmful urban freeway. At long last, I-94 would not be constantly eroding the quality of life and safety of the people living and moving nearby.

Level 2: Rethinking I-94 for Whom’st?

Rethinking 94 Meme 2

Two words: freeway caps.

Because many stretches of I-94 are below-grade, they might be ideal for freeway caps. Though expensive, these have many benefits, including increasing connections over the freeway, reducing noise and air pollution, and (most importantly) creating new land and public space. I did a whole report on how a cap might help St. Paul’s historically black Rondo community, but that could be only the beginning. Imagine caps at Nicollet Avenue, Cedar-Riverside, the Hawthorne and McKinley neighborhoods of northside Minneapolis, or in downtown St. Paul. They would transform the public realm and the lived experience of huge parts of our cities, reconnect neighborhoods long severed from one another, and allow huge amounts of public parks and housing to be constructed.

That would be a transformation.

Level 3: Rethinking I-94 for Whomst’d?

Rethinking 94 Meme 3

When the United States government decided in 1956 to fund the interstate highway system, it came at an extreme financial cost. Outside of military spending, no physical project in U.S. history has received more dollars than the interstate highway system. It was a huge expense, $25 billion over 10 years; adjusted for inflation, that would be $236 billion today. And, of course, that money was just the beginning of the federal price tag, which was at least double.) This investment radically altered the entire economy, especially around real estate, automobile and fossil fuel production, almost the whole of the retail market, and much more besides. This was a huge change spurred by the government and the industries that lobbied for it.

It also came at an extreme social cost, entailing the displacement and eradication of hundreds of neighborhoods and hundreds of thousands of people’s actual homes and businesses in ways that involved coercion and violence, and exercised the fiercest kind of government control. In addition, freeways altered the connections among neighborhoods and curtailed people’s mobility, and their health impacts have shortened lifespans and diminished quality of life through various forms of particulate pollution. Then there’s the actual physical violence engendered by speeding cars, which has killed tens of thousands of people like clockwork each year for decades.

The freeway system also came at an extreme environmental cost, pouring carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, fostering wasteful energy-intensive landscapes full of large single-family homes, pouring salt into the water and rubber particles from tires and other pollutants into the air at fantastic rates.

All this was done as a deliberate government policy. It is not extreme to suggest that it could be undone in the same way.

If we’re using our galaxy brains, we absolutely can ask: Why not simply get rid of I-94?

Surely it’s possible, and dozens of possible futures are to be found here. You might make a regular boulevard through the city along its right-of-way. You might use the right-of-way to build a dedicated high-frequency transit corridor, some connection that allowed you to get between the downtowns and beyond in under 15 minutes. You might use the additional space on connecting roads for dedicated transit routes.  You might build tens of thousands of homes for people who need them, in a dense and transit-served part of the city. You might use some of the land for parks or schools. Without a freeway to ruin the local environment, the land in the corridor could be used in a thousand different ways.

Freeways have been removed before in other cities; traffic evolves and adapts. We build the city we want and desire, and just getting rid of the urban interstate would be far cheaper than freeway caps, with a lot of the same benefits and more besides.

Now that’s “Rethinking I-94.”

Rethinking 94 Meme

“Here’s the meme you ordered, sir.”

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49 Responses to “Rethinking I-94,” Galaxy Brain-Style

  1. Tim B December 16, 2019 at 10:14 am #

    I vote level 3

    • Glen December 16, 2019 at 6:36 pm #

      At the neighborhood meeting, we added Post-its to a map and it was clear that even ‘cap it in spots’ was on the extreme for what MnDOT and most neighbors are thinking with this. Still useful to push for more options if they really are using the ‘rethinking’ frame.

      At a history of 35W meeting, the MnDOT side wanted to reinforce how the current project displaced almost nothing, in contrast to the original build and a 90s expansion plan that was defeated, which is at least proof values and priorities can be changed.

  2. Sean Hayford Oleary
    Sean Hayford-Oleary December 16, 2019 at 10:33 am #

    Unfortunate to put “expanding the freeway to add MnPASS” and “converting existing lane capacity to MnPASS” at the same level.

    These are very different outcomes — one is “not-as-bad-as-it-could-be” expansion, and the other is establishing that is OK to partially congestion price an urban freeway in Minnesota. 94 is a uniquely good candidate for converting existing capacity to MnPASS. So far, we have never once converted any unpriced lanes to MnPASS. This would be precedential for the region, and would allow us to actually verify and study some of the perceived negative impacts of congestion pricing (ie, are low-income/auto-dependent workers harmed by this?).

    I expect MnDOT’s default will be to maximize the trench by building spendy new retaining walls and adding another lane. (Either way, cleaning up the 280 junction will be an expensive mess.)

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke December 16, 2019 at 11:08 am #

      I agree with you Sean. You can’t really expand 94, but it was more of a “what I think should happen” vs. “what I think will happen” dynamic here.

      • Alex December 16, 2019 at 12:59 pm #

        Hopefully decongestion pricing for all lanes is on the table, too. There is at least one point where adding lanes isn’t possible (Prospect Park), right? So isn’t the only real option decongestion pricing at that point?

        • Sean Hayford Oleary
          Sean Hayford Oleary December 16, 2019 at 6:29 pm #

          You guys give a lot of faith to the idea that it would be impossible to expand a freeway in any location.

          It’s just a balance of political will and cost to do so. For example, if the Lowry Hill Tunnel were at end of life right now, I would 100% expect MnDOT’s proposal to e to add at least one more westbound lane, if not lanes in both directions.

          I think it’s totally acceptable position to say 94 should not expand further — but I would never assume that’s a given, even in areas that are constrained by existing features.

          • Bill Lindeke
            Bill Lindeke December 16, 2019 at 6:41 pm #

            Yeah but it’s not and that would be DIFFICULT/EXPENSIVE. But I agree with your caution.

          • Alex December 16, 2019 at 11:53 pm #

            I think we are at the point where NIMBYism and transportation advocacy are strong enough where takings of residential land are politically impossible, at least in states where local governments have some strength and independence. You’re right, though, that MnDot will propose spending as much as it takes to widen highways.

            I was thinking in particular of the point where 94 is wedged between Cecil St and the rail line to Hiawatha, where the shoulders are already 4-6′ and there is already a retaining wall. Upon further consideration, I believe that MnDot would propose buying out the rail line in order to widen 94. They could spend $5 billion widening 94 between Minneapolis and St Paul and still win awards for efficiency among state DOTs.

          • Andrew Evans December 19, 2019 at 12:43 pm #

            For what it’s worth, I heard from someone a few years back who worked closely with MnDOT for a while (mostly on making the stretch of 94 more safe just south of downtown Mpls) that the right of way around the Lowry tunnel is pretty close to the basements of the church and Walker. They weren’t sure the tunnel could be expanded.

    • Brian December 16, 2019 at 6:08 pm #

      Do you really think the remaking general purpose lanes wouldn’t end up as total gridlock if a lane was removed? Drivers are known to drive miles out of their way to avoid tolls even if the alternate takes longer.

      • Sean Hayford Oleary
        Sean Hayford-Oleary December 16, 2019 at 6:27 pm #

        As Bill pointed out, 94 (at least over the Dartmouth Bridge and west of 280) had fewer lanes only a decade ago.

        I think it’d be worth seeing how traffic performs and what the effects are. Obviously if it’s dumping another 15,000 cars a day on University or something, I think it’d be worth reconsidering. The hope would be that it:

        -Improves speed of buses and carpools — it almost certainly will
        -Incentivizes use of transit and carpools, reducing vehicle demand — it might
        -Encourages non-crucial rush hour trips to shift to other times of the day — it might / probably will
        -Generates toll revenue to help pay for the road — it will, although enforcement eats a lot of this up

        And as has been pointed out, there are spots where it would enormously expensive to expand the freeway — particularly the Lowry Hill Tunnel and the Dartmouth Bridge. If we do want a continuous MnPASS facility, we’d have to shift some existing lane capacity. Or be ready to spend half a billion dollars+.

        • Brian December 16, 2019 at 9:42 pm #

          Wasn’t it reported years ago that the 394 MNPass lanes were barely generating enough revenue to pay for the toll collection systems? Perhaps things have changed now that we have more MNPass lanes.

        • Monte Castleman December 17, 2019 at 5:45 pm #

          As much as I want to see new general purpose freeway lanes I’d gladly let this one go. The lanes don’t line up with the concrete edges, plus they’re substandard width, plus the shoulder is substandard width makes it feel dangerous to drive on and the substandard design mitigates a lot of the benefit of an additional lane.

  3. Brit Anbacht
    Brit Anbacht December 16, 2019 at 10:40 am #

    Level 4 for 94 and also 35W plz.
    Or at least replace one direction with trains+transit and convert the other side to housing or city speed roads.

  4. Mike Hicks December 16, 2019 at 11:09 am #

    Yeah, I’ve often thought about replacing the freeways with transit and train service. These corridors are some of our best options for building true high-speed rail. You could still fill in half of the freeway trench and have plenty of room for rail service, and probably even keep some room for a couple of bus lanes for a BRT spine.

  5. Aaron Isaacs
    Aaron Isaacs December 16, 2019 at 2:58 pm #

    Two things:
    1. All the express buses to the east Metro take 6th Street thru downtown then use the 6th Street ramp to enter 94, so don’t be so cavalier about closing that ramp.

    From Hwy 280 to downtown, buses are stuck in traffic because of the loss of shoulder bus lanes after the 35 bridge collapse. Huge impact on bus reliability. We need them back.

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke December 16, 2019 at 6:43 pm #
      1. They closed it for a while already and it was fine… https://streets.mn/2019/01/22/the-problem-with-east-sixth-street-in-st-paul/

      2. Agree!

      • Aaron Isaacs
        Aaron Isaacs December 16, 2019 at 9:57 pm #

        I thought you meant 6th Street in Minneapolis.

    • Pete Barrett December 16, 2019 at 7:14 pm #

      Is this about the entrance from 6th Street WEST toward downtown? Or the entrance EAST out of downtown?

      I’m not sure you and Bill are referring to the same ramp.

  6. Nicole Salica
    Nicole Salica December 16, 2019 at 4:04 pm #

    Linear park with express train between the two downtowns. Let’s go!!!

    • Daniel Choma
      Daniel Choma December 17, 2019 at 9:41 pm #

      As much as we talk about the Ayd Mill linear park, I would love love love if we put in a linear park where 94 is and actually reverse the historic inequities of the destruction of Rondo.

      94 would be a linear park that actually improves health outcomes instead of just making an affluent white area more affluent.

  7. Ray Schoch December 16, 2019 at 4:40 pm #

    If I actually got to choose – and of course, I won’t get to do that – I’d choose #3. Inside the “beltway” of 494/694, why not make it a transit (especially light rail) corridor, with branches along the main arterials? There’s currently no light rail to my corner (NW) of Minneapolis, and taking a bus to City Hall uses up 45 minutes each way when I can drive it, even with traffic, in 12 minutes, 9 times out of 10.

    My “real” question is: Why do interstates go through downtown areas at all? Doing so has had similar disastrous effects in all 3 of the metros where I’ve lived (St. Louis – I-70 & I-55 / Denver – I-70 & I-25 / Minneapolis – I-35 & I-94). The goal was high-speed travel BETWEEN cities, not necessarily within cities. End the interstate at the “beltway” roads, whether they measure up to interstate standards or not, and provide genuine, efficient, speedy transit options to people who insist on living out on the fringes while making it even easier for actual city-dwellers to get around.

    • Brian December 16, 2019 at 6:04 pm #

      If you were a 1960s traffic planner would you have proposed an interstate through the farm fields that existed not far from the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul at the time? I bet politicians would have told the planners to plan a highway where people actually lived at the time.

      In hindsight, things should have been done differently, but we don’t have time machine to go back.

      • Scott December 17, 2019 at 10:04 am #

        Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe the intent of 494/696 was to by-pass the Twin Cities altogether and function more like a rural freeway – connecting towns and cities, and connecting markets. My dad has talked about how people thought it was crazy to build these big highways out in the middle of nowhere, with very little traffic. Of course, due the the success and growth of the Twin Cities area, these roads, and big cheap building lots, really facilitated and jump-started the sprawl we have today. I don’t think that was really the intent, but that’s what happened. So, from that era we have an example of roads attracting sprawl. Nowadays, folks seem to move beyond reach of the transportation network and then complain about the traffic until they get politicians to approve more highways. They don’t seem to have to complain all that hard, really.

        • Sean Hayford Oleary
          Sean Hayford Oleary December 17, 2019 at 1:34 pm #

          Not sure how much intent was to bypass — 694 is clearly labeled as a bypass and possibly serves that intent. The way 94 enters and exits, it’s of course a much shorter distance than going around 494.

          However, between present-day Hwy 100 and Hwy 5/Fort Rd (east), 494 was placed on the old Hwy 100 beltline, that was already fully developed at the time of interstate planning. That area is still where the most intense development is. I think the idea that it would become part-bypass but mostly a “suburban main street[/freeway]” would have been somewhat obvious at the time.

      • Adam Miller
        Adam Miller December 17, 2019 at 10:21 am #

        We also don’t have to keep investing in bad, expensive transportation infrastructure. We will, but we don’t have to.

        • Brian December 17, 2019 at 4:29 pm #

          What happens to highways with no investment? They eventually start to crumble and could become unusable with no further investment in repairs. The same thing would happen to LRT if no investment was done.

          The big downtown 35W project is a reconstruction of the highway and doesn’t add any new lanes. It does move the MNPass off the inside shoulder and restores the outside shoulder that was lost when the MNPass Lane was originally built.

          • Sean Hayford Oleary
            Sean Hayford Oleary December 17, 2019 at 4:35 pm #

            ~2008: Converting a shoulder for rush-hour-only use by buses and MnPASS users (no capacity expansion, just making use of a shoulder!)

            2019: Converting that ~2008 shoulder to a 24/7 lane, and adding two new shoulders (no capacity expansion, just “restoring” original shoulders.)

            An extra lane appears without ever adding capacity! That’s a neat magic trick.

    • Adam Miller
      Adam Miller December 17, 2019 at 10:20 am #

      “Why do interstates go through downtown areas at all?”

      Because America made a series of grave, grave mistakes in the second half of the 20th century. Places with any kind of foresight (or just older city centers that were harder to bulldoze) direct their through traffic around the city on ring roads as you suggest. But alas.

      Level 4 is what we would do if we had learned our lesson, perhaps burying a subway line as we filled in the trench, but we haven’t.

  8. Brian December 16, 2019 at 5:57 pm #

    I think it is time for me to start looking for a job outside of the Twin Cities as it seems there is a group who thinks we should all waste hours of time every day taking transit everywhere. I already waste several hours per week taking the bus downtown.

    I guess my other option would be simply never to leave my house except for work. Let me see, 15 to 20 minutes by car, or three hours by bus with a mile or two of walking. If car isn’t a choice I ‘m probably staying home.

    I need to get a new snow blower as mine broke and no parts available. Is the bus driver going to let me take a snow blower on the bus like a wheelchair? I very much doubt it.

    I am particularly incensed with transit service today. Both my morning and afternoon buses crashed with me walking two and a half miles back downtown to get another bus. From the time I left downtown on the first bus until I left downtown the second time was an hour and a half. (There wasn’t enough room on the replacement bus so I walked back downtown.)

    • Sean Hayford Oleary
      Sean Hayford Oleary December 16, 2019 at 6:33 pm #

      Nobody’s trying to get you to put your snowblower on the bus. It is possible for a car to be a really useful tool for a lot of things — but for it not to be a 100% appropriate transportation solution for every trip, from every origin to every destination.

      Our current planning paradigm is that the car is the 100% solution. The reality is that all modes have trade-offs, and cars certainly do too. It’s always weird how people argue, for example, that bikes aren’t usable for most people during the winter — yet on a beautiful 75° day in the summer, I still see literally tens of thousands of cars sitting in stopped traffic on 494, mostly 5-to-7-seat cars with a single occupant. This is the result of planning and transportation choices that social-engineer the car into being the only acceptable option for most of the region.

    • Pete Barrett December 16, 2019 at 7:11 pm #

      If we can improve travel by car, couldn’t we also improve travel by bike & transit?

      • Brian December 16, 2019 at 8:06 pm #

        Name one improvement that the City of Minneapolis has made for car travel in the past few years? Almost every road project by the City of Minneapolis these days is about removing motorized vehicles or otherwise slowing them down.

        • Adam Miller
          Adam Miller December 17, 2019 at 10:25 am #

          The notion that people are better served by conditions that increase crashes and deaths is a fascinating one. And yet, it’s commonly seen as an attack on cars to try to build safer infrastructure that encourages them to drive at or below the speed limit.

          Personally, I appreciate infrastructure that helps me be a safer driver.

          • Brian December 18, 2019 at 10:32 am #

            Have you seen the traffic in downtown Minneapolis? People speeding is rarely the issue. The city and county keep removing and narrowing lanes which is making things worse.

            I walked from 35W and University Ave to 2nd Ave and 11th St at about 5 PM Monday evening. I could not believe how much gridlock there was on the eastbound streets crossing 2nd Ave. Quite a few of the eastbound streets were at a complete standstill. I couldn’t cross the street several times because cars were (illegally) blocking the crosswalk. I can’t hardly blame the drivers for not wanting to sit through another one or two more cycles of stop lights. What often happens is traffic inches forward and any space gets by filled left and/or right turners and those going straight still can’t cross the intersection at the next green. Vehicles blocking the crosswalk even happened when someone was directing traffic!

            A street that is free flowing doesn’t have to automatically mean drivers have to speed.

            • Adam Miller
              Adam Miller December 18, 2019 at 11:07 am #

              Have you been downtown other than during rush hour? Because speeding is definitely also an issue when there’s room for it.

              But that’s not where the traffic calming changes have really been. You don’t actually think downtown traffic at rush hour is because of traffic calming, do you?

            • Andrew Evans December 19, 2019 at 1:01 pm #

              Brian

              I don’t see many speeders downtown either, but then I usually try to get through there before 5pm after going to workout in uptown and on my way home. Vehicles blocking roads or general dysfunction seems to be hit and miss, although I’m more than likely through there before it gets too crazy.

              Due to the new parking meter rules, and me not living in Stevens Square anymore, I rarely get downtown outside of commuting hours anymore.

              Sometimes, when River Road had a denture through downtown I’d cut up through the U, cross the river, and take University west from 11th or whatever that is. Sure, it’s a mess, but it’s doable. With Broadway restriping causes issues around Central, taking University around may be easier, or skipping up to Lowry and putting up with the mess that’s Lowry and Central.

  9. Steve Gjerdingen December 16, 2019 at 8:13 pm #

    Good luck getting ramps removed:
    35W in Roseville is getting reconstructed and MnPASS lanes are being added. At the time the project was being put together, I asked about removing a ramp at the County Rd C interchange. Currently, there is a cloverleaf to access southbound 35w and I rarely see any congestion in this area. The same turns can be made by using existing grid streets to access the Long Lake Rd connection onto 35w. When asking a MnDOT staff member about removing the cloverleaf I was told in no uncertain terms that there would be ‘no way’ that would be happening and that the cloverleaf was necessary.

    • Brian December 17, 2019 at 7:25 pm #

      MNDOT removed the County Road I to 35W north ramp about two years ago so ramps do get removed. I’m sure drivers who live there hate it because now they have to drive south a mile or two to drive north.

  10. Brian December 16, 2019 at 8:19 pm #

    Say we did somehow get the legislature to approve remove 35W and I94 where would the $5 billion to $10 billion come from to make it happen? Just removing the highways and restoring the street grid with all new utilities and streets would probably cost in excess of $1 billion. It would take billions in transit investment to replace 300,000 vehicle trips per day.

    How do we design a transit system that people actually want to use? Today, many drivers can hop in their cars and be at their destination in under 20 minutes. If someone has to walk 1/2 mile to a bus stop and wait five minutes for a bus that is already 15 to 20 minutes and that person isn’t even on the bus. Ride the bus for 10 to 15 minutes and then walk another 1/2 mile for another 10 to 15 minutes to their destination. You’re easily at double the time it takes today.

    • Adam Miller
      Adam Miller December 17, 2019 at 10:27 am #

      Who says we want to replace all of those trips? We most definitely do not.

      Also, you’ve left out the other side of the ledger. With the freeways gone, there’s land for development and ongoing tax revenue once it’s developed.

  11. Eric Ecklund December 17, 2019 at 1:47 am #

    I say remove I-94 between the downtowns. If it were up to me all of the urban freeways would be gone with the suburban beltways remaining, but I’m okay with just removing I-94 between the downtowns. I’d rather take a high quality train than drive.

  12. Scott December 17, 2019 at 3:08 pm #

    Thanks Bill, for highlighting this topic.

    We need to pressure Minneapolis and St. Paul policy-makers to demand a better outcome from the I-94 rebuild. I fear, however, we’ll end up with another massive rebuild (and slight expansions) just like the current I-35W project. This likely will involve MNDOt proposing some half-hearted bus improvements similar to the Orange Line BRT on I-35W, and transit advocates will be expected to get excited about it no matter what.

    Perhaps the best we can hope for are some freeway lids, but even that isn’t very likely outside a a couple locations like Dale in St. Paul.

    • Brian December 18, 2019 at 10:37 am #

      Last I heard about the very preliminary plan to rebuild I-94 in the Midway area was to not have any new traffic lanes. The only changes would be to make all the lanes continuous instead of having the right lane stop and start multiple times.

      I suspect there will be changes once they finally have funding for the project.

  13. Matt Steele
    Matt December 17, 2019 at 8:33 pm #

    When I-94 is removed between the downtowns, the I-94 designation can replace I-694 between Woodbury and Maple Grove.

  14. Sean Hayford Oleary
    Sean Hayford Oleary December 18, 2019 at 10:32 am #

    (Edit: This was in reply to Brian, not sure why his comment was removed.)

    shrug

    It also adds a completely new lane southbound from downtown to 46th St — there was previously no MnPASS lane here.

    I don’t actually think the 35W Crosstown-Downtown project is a particularly bad one. But when we are expanding capacity, we should be honest about it. It has a lot of benefits! Improved mobility, both for drivers but also for buses. Some safety benefits to get those NB shoulders back.

    But it also has costs — more money, more pavement, and more air pollution. It isn’t anti-motor vehicle to acknowledge that these costs exist.

    • Brian December 18, 2019 at 11:25 am #

      Sorry, I have totally missed that a new southbound MNPass line is being added. How much vehicle capacity does a MNPass really add? Isn’t the point of a MNPass lane to keep vehicle speeds above 45 MPH or so?

      90% of the 35W downtown project is to rebuild a worn out highway instead of adding any traffic capacity. The 35E project did add capacity because it had no MNPass lanes at all when it was rebuilt.

      I know the 35W downtown project makes a lot of groups unhappy. Many drivers are unhappy that MNDOT is doing a four year project and not adding more lanes. Some of the transportation alternative groups are unhappy that MNDOT is not removing 35W instead of doing this project.

  15. Steve December 24, 2019 at 8:56 pm #

    Remove 94/35W/35E in the city and rely on the belt freeways 494/694 (they did not exist when the centers of St. Paul/Mpls were destroyed for freeways) and the resulting massive acreage of development and transit development would result in a million or two more living in the Twin Cities.

    We would pass Detroit and certainly any Midwest Metro growth by 10s of percent.

    But why grow our economy and efficiency when we can spend all our resources on an extra lane of traffic? We really need that lane.

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