The much-anticipated $240 million overhaul of Interstate 35W in south Minneapolis will be finished Friday — and for most motorists and residents, that's not a moment too soon.

The ambitious highway project between downtown Minneapolis and Crosstown Hwy. 62 replaced a 50-year-old freeway and took four years for the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) to complete. The project has tested the patience of motorists with countless road closures and detours.

"This has been quite a journey, quite an undertaking," said MnDOT spokesman David Aeikens.

The work included a long list of complex engineering feats, including 11 new bridges, new ramps offering better access to Lake Street businesses, a new station at Lake Street for the Orange Line bus rapid transit line, new E-ZPass lanes, and better connections for bicyclists and pedestrians, according to MnDOT.

A new flyover bridge will carry traffic from northbound I-35W to westbound Interstate 94 in a different way: Motorists can now enter westbound I-94 in their own lane on the left side of the freeway.

The overall result will be reduced congestion and quicker travel times along one of the busiest stretches of highway in the state, Aeikens said.

Using 2013 traffic as a baseline, MnDOT expects average daily traffic on I-35W to increase 30% by 2038, to 257,700 vehicles.

Work continued on the project despite the COVID-19 outbreak in early 2020, with workers adhering to state and federal safety protocols. As more Minnesotans stayed at home, traffic eased and allowed MnDOT to reduce the need for night work, according to the department's website.

Frequent users of the stretch "will see much smoother service" in spots that have already opened up, Aeikens said — in fact, he added, "they're already seeing it." The half-century-old concrete roadway "was way past its life span," he said.

With new ramp access from I-35W south to Lake Street, and from I-35W north to 28th Street, neighborhoods bordering the freeway will likely see less congestion as well.

The project was completed just in time for the Orange Line BRT project to begin service later this year. The 17-mile line will connect Minneapolis, Richfield, Bloomington and Burnsville along I-35W with all-day service, seven days a week.

Federal, state, county and city officials will gather Friday to celebrate the project's completion.

On Sunday, MnDOT will host a street fair with food, music and games for the community from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on E. Lake Street between Stevens and 2nd avenues S.