New ramp to 35W near Metrodome may come soon

  • Article by: STEVE BRANDT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 15, 2011 - 11:10 PM

The Minneapolis project would ease backups on Washington Avenue.

A planned connection to northbound Interstate 35W near the Metrodome represents the first new freeway access from downtown Minneapolis in about 20 years.

A key City Council committee approved the project Tuesday, setting the stage for a vote by the full council Friday. Slotted for construction next year, the $13.5 million project is expected to improve access and flow on 35W and divert rush-hour traffic from Washington Avenue S.

The new access would allow drivers to reach 35W by following 4th Street past the Metrodome, then making a left turn at a traffic light onto a new ramp.

The project also includes adding a northbound 35W auxiliary lane between 4th St. SE. and Stinson Boulevard to break up congestion caused by cross-weaving drivers entering at 4th St and exiting at E. Hennepin Avenue. The project also will change the exit patterns for Johnson Street, New Brighton Boulevard and Stinson, although drivers will keep access to all three. Noise walls likely will be built in this area.

The most recent freeway connections for downtown were built in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when three big state-owned parking ramps on downtown's western edge were connected with I-394.

The 35W project is only one change happening in the broad transportation valley that separates downtown from Cedar-Riverside. Construction of the Central Corridor light-rail line will means the permanent closure of an eastbound ramp from 4th to Cedar Avenue. A westbound ramp from Cedar to downtown will convert to a two-way street to compensate.

The 35W project is a cooperative venture between the Minnesota Department of Transportation, which provided $9.4 million, and the city and Hennepin County, which will nearly split the remaining cost of slightly more than $4 million. The state will handle contractor selection with a bidding process like the 35W replacement bridge, in which qualified firms submit proposals that will be judged by a combination of a technical score and cost. That's scheduled for February.

Sandra Colvin Roy, who chairs the council's Transportation and Public Works Committee, said traffic studies have pinpointed the need to relieve congestion on Washington at 35W as far back as around 1999. The added freeway access and extra lane got momentum when state officials asked the city what transportation changes should be accommodated in the rebuilding of the collapsed 35W bridge.

Steve Brandt • 612-673-4438

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