The city of Plymouth’s quest to get a third lane built on Interstate 494 cleared a major hurdle this week when the Minnesota Department of Transportation said it has found the money to pay for the long-desired project.
The $25 million needed to build the lane became available because MnDOT identified $50 million in savings from other construction projects.
The agency expects to build the extra lane in each direction along the 6-mile segment of I-494 between Hwy. 55 and the Fish Lake Interchange by 2016.
“This is a good result for Plymouth, Minnetonka and Maple Grove,” Metro District Engineer Scott McBride said. “I’m sure they are pleased.”
The Metropolitan Council has to add the project into the long-range Transportation Policy Plan, a process that could take up to four months and requires public input.
McBride said he expects that process to go smoothly.
“We have a reasonable plan,” he said. “I don’t anticipate anything popping up.”
Plymouth Mayor Kelli Slavik said the lane is desperately needed on the only stretch of I-494 that has just two lanes in each direction.
More than 95,000 vehicles use the segment between Hwy. 55 and the Fish Lake Interchange, where I-494, I-94 and I-694 converge. MnDOT projects that traffic volume will grow to 133,000 by 2030.
MnDOT expanded I-494 through Bloomington, Eden Prairie and Minnetonka over the past decade, but funding ran short and priorities changed when it came time to build a third lane in Plymouth.
Slavik said she and city leaders have been pushing for the third lane for nearly a decade and she is confident the Met Council will approve it. “I think it will happen,” she said. “It means a lot to the city as a whole, its residents and businesses.”
The third lane will be added to a $68 million freeway reconstruction project on I-494 scheduled to start in July. This summer’s work will include widening 11 bridges and ramps between I-394 and the Fish Lake Interchange.
The $50 million in savings comes from the St. Croix River bridge project ($30 million) and a bridge replacement in Red Wing ($20 million). MnDOT will use the remaining $25 million in savings to reconstruct 50 miles of I-90 in southern Minnesota.
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