Mndot 94 Process H

‘Rethinking’ I-94: When an Image Deceives

You may have heard about the Rethinking I-94 process that the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) has begun. When I hear those words, as a person concerned (alarmed!) about our climate crisis, I assume it means, you know, rethinking Interstate 94. Like:

  • Do we need a highway through our cities?
  • Could it be filled in, or narrowed and turned into a transit and bike corridor?
  • Might it at least be partially lidded to reconnect the neighborhoods it destroyed?

After all, even the people who envisioned the interstate system didn’t think freeways should go right through cities, and it’s now not unheard of for cities to fill them in. Induced demand goes elsewhere or evaporates.

But very little of that appears to be in the minds of MnDOT, from the looks of Rethinking I-94 so far. It will be a relatively mundane bureaucratic process, dictated by external considerations and rules that no regular person can understand. Those of us who want to influence it, to improve its awfulness, are lucky that we have people on our side who know how that process works. I am thankful for them, and will be there to support their efforts as much as possible.

I’m writing this post, though, for reasons simpler than all of that. I just want to complain about the graphic that MnDOT commissioned to explain the public involvement process.

Mndot 94 Process

Doesn’t that illustration give you the warm fuzzies? Aren’t our urban interstates quaint, two-lane roads that meander through green spaces graced with rivers and their pretty bridges? Don’t they all have just two cars and one van on their entire length, with charming, well-kept houses right up against the freeway, since no roaring engines and buzzing tires are going past, spewing pollution to drive the people away?

Oh, and wait a minute. The Rethinking I-94 project, at least the part I’m familiar with, goes right through St. Paul and the commons area of Minneapolis. Why does this illustration look like it’s in a rural area with the cities off in the distance?

I’m not saying I need an illustration to be a literal representation of I-94’s ugly reality, like Dan Marshall’s post about the pedestrian bridges across the highway, but I think it’s a disservice to visually imply that “rethinking” will result in nirvana, when the planners have shown no intention so far of doing anything but widening the road for more cars and trucks to increase their throughput.

We need a rethought I-94 for the future of the Twin Cities and the people on this planet.


Pat Thompson

About Pat Thompson

Pat Thompson is cochair of the St. Anthony Park Community Council's Transportation Committee, a member of Transition Town - All St. Anthony Park, and a gardener in public and private places. She is a member of the Climate Committee.