I-35W expansion could jeopardize historic homes

  • Updated: November 20, 2013 - 11:57 AM

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David Piehl says his home fronting Interstate 35W at Lake Street suffers from so much road vibration that the walls crack and the windows rattle.

“Even the bath water jiggles,” he said.

Road salt corrodes anything metal that’s outside, and tests have shown the neighborhood’s air to be some of most polluted in the state, he added.

But it’s a proposed $150 million set of improvements that Piehl says will make his and his neighbors’ historic homes unlivable.

The Transit Access Project (TAP) calls for a new $46 million bus station in the middle of the freeway at Lake Street that will offer easier bus connections to Lake Street as well as access for bicyclists to the nearby Midtown Greenway.

But it will require expanding the freeway, possibly encroaching on the homes along Second Avenue S., which the Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission describes as one of the finest surviving collections of Queen Anne architecure in Minneapolis.

“It’s basically marginal being there,” Piehl said of living in the row of stately homes that are familiar to anyone who drives northbound on 35W just south of downtown. “If the freeway comes 30 feet closer, it won’t be livable. I think anybody who would live there would not be an owner who takes pride in living there.”

Piehl and his neighbors have formed a group called Stop35W, and recently have been posting lawn signs and a banner along the freeway to raise awareness of the issue. They’ve got a big audience: about 200,000 vehicles per day on 35W. And Wednesday they’re scheduled to meet at City Hall with transportation officials, along with community leaders Piehl said are opposed to the project. Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin, for one, said he was surprised by the latest proposals and called them “unacceptable.”

Jim Grube, engineer for Hennepin County, which is the lead agency on TAP, said a new southbound lane would have to be added to the freeway to allow bus access to the new station from the inside lanes of the freeway in both directions. That would allow buses to continue to and from the center-lane bus station at E. 46th Street without changing lanes.

Grube met recently with the Second Avenue South residents and said their concerns are real. The footprint of the freeway at Lake Street is likely to grow, he added, but where and by how much is still undetermined, he added. Design is still underway and a construction contract is expected to be awarded until 2017. “It’s not a done deal yet,” he said. “There’s still time to maneuver.”

Grube added that the TAP is an integral part of a range of major freeway upgrades MnDOT is planning for south of downtown. One calls for moving the lanes carrying vehicles entering southbound 35W from Fourth Avenue South from the right side of the freeway to the left, to allow buses straight access to the Lake Street transit station. Another is replacement of the flyover connection from northbound 35W to westbound Interstate 94, which would shift the merge onto I94 from the right to the left, eliminating the weaving with traffic trying to exit to Hennepin and Lyndale Avenues.

  • What’s next

    Wednesday: City, county and state officials will meet with neighbors to talk about the proposed expansion.

    Where: City Hall

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