A plan to reramp westbound access from Interstate 94 to downtown Minneapolis is headed toward key approval next week by the City Council.
The change would shift the 94 entrance ramp into downtown from S. 5th Street to S. 7th Street at an estimated cost of $10.5 million. The current plan is to start the project in mid-2015 and finish it later that year.
The reramping of the 94 access to downtown carries out a 2007 directive approved by the council when it adopted a downtown transportation plan.
The city’s traffic engineers said that 7th provides more direct traffic access to downtown’s core. The current 5th entrance ramp winds around the former site of the Metrodome, and through an intersection at Park Avenue complicated by crossing light-rail trains.
The city said that many drivers headed toward the downtown core already turn from 5th to 7th, creating further congestion on streets that connect them. So that’s why the shift was approved by the council’s transportation committee on Tuesday and is scheduled for a council vote next Friday. The 94 ramp would enter downtown where the Hiawatha Avenue ramp now enters downtown.
The bulk of the project involves building a ramp bridge across Interstate 35W and adjacent ramps. It would then carry traffic through the Hennepin County Medical Center complex. The state is supplying $7.5 million of the cost through two programs, while the city will borrow $3 million for its share.
The project isn’t the only freeway change planned on downtown’s east side. Plans also are pending to create a new northbound entrance to Interstate 35W from S. 4th St. Moreover, there has been discussion of converting the existing S. 5th Street ramp to better downtown access for the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood.