$236M Reconstruction of Busy Freeway Completed in Minneapolis

A four-year, $239 million project to upgrade the busy I-35 West freeway in downtown Minneapolis has been completed.

The project involved rebuilding 2.5 miles of freeway between 43rd Street and I-94. A new southbound E-ZPass lane was built for vehicles with two or more occupants to travel or single-occupant vehicles whose drivers pay a toll, according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

Other improvements included a new interchange at I-35W and I-94; 19 rebuilt bridges; new access from southbound I-35W to a rebuilt Lake Street and a new ramp from I-35W north to I-94 west, which includes a dedicated lane for motorists to continue through the Lowry Tunnel.

The project also included a new Metro Transit station at 31st and Lake streets for a bus line to provide quicker service to downtown.

Walking and biking paths were improved, with new pedestrian bridges at 24th and 40th streets.

“From better pedestrian bridges and improved transit options to new E-ZPass lanes, new ramps and rebuilt bridges, this work will benefit everyone who lives, walks, bikes, uses transit or drives in the area – and with the help of our partners, this project finished on-time and on-budget,” said MnDOT Commissioner Margaret Anderson Kelliher.

The original freeway was built in 1967, and toll lanes were added in 2009. Nearly 200,000 vehicles a day travel I-35W, according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation, and 243,000 travel I-94. Those traffic numbers are forecast to increase to 257,700 and 288,500, respectively, by 2038.

MnDOT says the goal is to reduce congestion, increase the roadway’s life and improve safety.

The agency also expects to soon complete another major project on I-35W. Work began in 2018 on reconstructing the bridges over the Minnesota River and 106th Street between Burnsville and Bloomington. Other improvements include a northbound auxiliary lane, a trail and improved signs, lighting and drainage. The project is expected to be completed in November, according to MnDOT, at an estimated cost of $147.6 million. The Minnesota River bridge was built in the 1950s, with its southbound approach in a floodplain. It handles about 140,000 vehicles a day. 

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