Plymouth city leaders and residents and commuters who live in the northern and western suburbs have been pushing for additional lanes on Interstate 494 between the Fish Lake Interchange and I-394. Next summer, they will get their wish, sort of.
On Tuesday, officials from the Minnesota Department of Transportation will hold an open house to show off plans for adding a "dynamic shoulder" to help ease congestion. The lane, similar to one on Interstate 35W in south Minneapolis, is part of a $61.5 million pavement rehabilitation project set to begin in June and continue through 2016.
An open house will begin at 4 p.m. at the Plymouth City Hall, 3400 Plymouth Blvd. MnDOT officials will give a presentation at 6 p.m., then take questions from the audience. At 7 p.m., officials will talk about the process it will use to vote on whether to install noise walls.
As part of the project, a number of bridges will be rebuilt and ramps resurfaced.
For commuters, the wider shoulders will serve as an additional traffic lane during peak periods only and ostensibly ease congestion between the Fish Lake Interchange (I-494/94/694) and Hwy. 55. The lanes could be opened at other times, such as if a crash tangles traffic. When they are open, motorists won't have to pay to use them like they do on 35W between 46th Street and downtown Minneapolis.
Currently about 95,000 vehicles each day use the seven miles of freeway between I-394 and the Fish Lake Interchange. That number could rise to 132,800 by 2030 according to MnDOT estimates.
Back in February when the project was announced, I wrote a column on how congestion has led many drivers onto city and county roads, particularly Vicksburg Lane and Hwy. 101. Those roads are not designed for high volumes of traffic. That is bringing extra wear and tear on those roads, and additional congestion, too.
Colleague Kelly Smith reported last week that Plymouth is planning to spend $20 million to upgrade Vicksburg Lane to four lanes in 2015 to deal with problem.
Here is more information about MnDOT's 494 project.