The third and final phase of the Lowry Hill Tunnel  and nearby bridge project in downtown Minneapolis begins at midnight Thursday and a new lane configuration will be in place in time for the Friday morning rush hour, the Minnesota Department of Transportation said.

All eastbound I-94 motorists will be diverted onto the Hennepin/Lyndale Avenue ramp from midnight until 5 a.m. Monday to allow crews to switch traffic to the west side of the tube. When the freeway reopens Friday morning, drivers will share the west side of the tunnel with two lanes open in each direction with a concrete median separating eastbound from westbound traffic.

With that comes a big ramp closure: On the east end of the tunnel, the ramp from east I-94 to south I-35W will be closed starting Friday.

The set up will be similar to the configuration MnDOT used in July when the westbound side of the tunnel was closed and all traffic used the eastbound lanes.

In a slight deviation, the ramp from east I-394 to east I-94 will remain open for two weeks, until Aug. 14, and one lane on the eastbound side of the tunnel will stay open to allow motorists to pass through.

On the east end of the tunnel, ramps to and from north I-35W to west I-94 and from east I-94 to south I-35W will be closed starting Friday. Also closing are ramps from Hwy. 55 to east I-94 and 4th Avenue S. near the Minneapolis Convention Center to west I-94.

MnDOT reminds drivers that the speed limit through the work zone extending from 3rd Avenue S. up to Hwy. 55 remains at 40 miles per hour. All trucks, buses and vehicles weighing more than 9,000 pounds are prohibited from traveling through the tunnel. Violators are subject to a $300 fine. The proscribed detour is along I-35W, Crosstown Hwy. 62 and Hwy. 100.

Work inside the tunnel and on bridges just to the north is expected to be complete in mid-September.

In a related ramp closure, the exit from west I-94 to West Broadway and Washington Avenue closed Wednesday through Aug. 12.

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