St. Paul, Minn — The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) announced today the results of the Rethinking I-94 process — a comprehensive evaluation of the needs and opportunities of the Interstate 94 corridor in Minneapolis and St. Paul.
As a result of the study, MnDOT will be moving forward with an improvement project on the corridor — a strategic spot mobility improvement to 23 miles of freeway.
“We know we can’t build our way out of congestion,” said Transportation Commissioner Nancy Daubenberger at today’s press conference. “Which is exactly why we’ve put the rethinking in Rethinking 94 — instead of trying to build our way out of congestion with more lanes, we’ll address congestion with comprehensive, multimodal solutions — such as building more lanes.”
MnDOT has long eschewed expansion, in an effort to lead the state in financially sustainable, environmentally sound infrastructure. Instead, the department has focused on spot mobility improvements, auxiliary lanes, safety and mobility improvements, and strategic improvements.
Locally preferred alternative presented, historical context noted
The locally preferred alternative for the I-94 corridor will not be an expansion, but merely a spot mobility improvement to the interstate, spanning from Brooklyn Center to Maplewood.
The plan will add two lanes in each direction for the 23 miles of interstate affected. “This will be a multimodal facility,” Daubenberger stated today. “One of those two new mobility-improved lanes will be a managed facility on the EZ Pass network. This means that for four hours a day, this lane will be reserved for transit, carpools, and EZ Pass users.”
“That’s right,” Daubenberger said with pause to let the significance set in among the crowd. “Twenty of the 168 hours of the week, one of those lanes will be dedicated to transit and carpooling. It is hard to imagine a greater investment in transportation alternatives.”
“It’s important to put this in context,” said Dave Johnson, MnDOT Metro Area Manager for Expansion Euphemism. “We know that this process is centered in an ugly legacy of building and widening highways through disadvantaged neighborhoods. We’ve learned our lessons, and now we approach this with an equity lens.”
“Today, we don’t bulldoze homes and businesses at the expense of neighborhoods. We invest in disadvantaged neighborhoods — by bulldozing homes and businesses.”
Johnson pointed to a recent small-scale example of this strategy: the interchange of I-94 and Dale Street, which included improvement of a small-business site into a vacant lot.
Boulevard alternatives dismissed
Although local advocacy organization Our Streets Minneapolis advocated for consideration of a boulevard conversion of the mainline 94 corridor, MnDOT found it unviable to study the matter.
“Rethinking the use, function, and form of Interstate 94 was not within the scope of the ‘Rethinking I-94’ project,” Johnson clarified. “But our plan to add a strategic spot mobility improvement to 23 miles of the corridor shows that no idea is too original or ‘out of the box’ to be considered.”
Committed to green infrastructure
Although congestion relief alone is considered one of the greenest things an agency can do, MnDOT isn’t stopping there. “This will be green infrastructure, we’ll be planting over 500 trees in the corridor,” announced Governor Tim Walz, who also presented at today’s press conference.
When mature, 500 trees are expected to absorb 24,000 pounds of carbon dioxide each year. This is the equivalent of 1,200 gallons of gasoline — or about two drivers’ worth, each and every year.
“With 135,000 drivers on 94 each day, we’re proud to erase the emissions of nearly 0.0015% of those cars,” pronounced Walz proudly.
The Rethinking I-94 improvements are expected to begin in 2023. At press time, Streets.mn was awaiting a response as to how the improvements will help facilitate MnDOT’s goals of reducing vehicle miles traveled by 20%.
And if you believe any of this, consider yourself pranked. April Fools!