Bloomington motorists have waited a long long time - 58 years to be exact - for a ramp leading from East Bush Lake Road to westbound Interstate 494, and the wait is nearly over.
The city of Bloomington in concert with Hennepin County and the Minnesota Department of Transportation are putting the final touches on the new ramp this week and drivers may be able to use it by Friday, though "it could take a day or two longer," said Minnesota Department of Transportation spokesman David Aeikens.
City officials did not wait to celebrate the $23.8 million project. They held a ribbon cutting Tuesday afternoon.
The interchange built in 1960 had only three ramps. Both eastbound and westbound drivers on Interstate 494 could get off at East Bush Lake Road. But drivers on East Bush Lake Road could only access eastbound Interstate 494 with no option to access westbound I-494.
Six decades ago, that was more of an inconvenience. Since then there has been lots of development in the Normandale Lakes area in the form of high-rise office tours and condominiums, numerous office buildings, hotels and neighborhood townhomes. All that building has brought more traffic the area making the ramp more of a necessity.
With its opening, city officials say it could help with congestion relief at the nearby I-494/Hwy. 100 interchange.
“While this project benefits Bloomington, the new westbound ramp with access to I-494 will greatly benefit Normandale Lake Office Park - one of the largest employment centers in the region,” Bloomington Mayor Gene Winstead said.
To fit in the missing ramp, crews put in what's called an inverted loop. Drivers will share the original ramp heading to eastbound I-494 before the ramp splits in two directions. At that point, eastbound drivers will continue straight onto 494. Westbound drivers will cross over a new flyover bridge over I-494, then go under the East Bush Lake Road overpass before merging onto westbound I-494.
Here is a summary of the work and what the new interchange looks like.
An $8 million Transportation Economic Development Program grant from the Minnesota Department of Transportation, a $7.3 million grant from the federal government's Congestion Mitigation/Air Quality program and $8.5 million from Hennepin County covered the project's cost.