The Minnesota Department of Transportation released a slate of 10 alternatives Monday for repairing the heavily used stretch of Interstate 94 between Minneapolis and St. Paul, with hopes they might also help improve the freeway's historically antagonistic relationship with the communities that live beside it.

The options revealed by MnDOT's Rethinking I-94 Policy Advisory Committee range from simply repairing what already exists to expanding the corridor to 10 lanes with broader shoulders for buses. They follow years of technical research and public engagement sessions in which Twin Cities residents were encouraged to dream big about how transforming I-94 could reconnect city neighborhoods.

"The alternatives feature a variety of roadway types, transit service and lane configurations," said MnDOT Commissioner Nancy Daubenberger. "We listened to input from communities along I-94, community leaders participating in rethinking, advocacy groups and our partner agencies as these alternatives were developed but will continue to do so as this process moves forward."

The advisory committee includes city, county and state representatives, who said they would take some time to consider the options. But several were immediately disappointed to see alternatives included that would result in a bigger freeway.

"Why is expansion even on the table, if the goals and the project's master vision is to have equity, climate resiliency, et cetera?" asked St. Paul City Council Member Mitra Jalali. She noted that St. Paul opposes expanding the freeway and supports a dedicated lane for mass transit.

"Freeway expansion is actually categorically in opposition to those things," Jalali said.

Rethinking I-94 project manager Melissa Barnes said that MnDOT wanted to consider the full universe of alternatives, but that some ideas would be eliminated later in the process. None of the alternatives yet have cost estimates. The agency hopes to name a preferred alternative sometime before 2025.

One of the grassroots proposals that had gained traction during the public engagement process was the Twin Cities Boulevard proposal by Our Streets Minneapolis, to convert the stretch of I-94 between the two downtowns into a boulevard. Completely taking out the freeway didn't pass "purpose and need," Barnes said.

However, two of the alternatives would replace I-94 with an at-grade roadway like a boulevard. Additional green space may be presented in further versions of the alternatives.

Hennepin County Commissioner Angela Conley asked that MnDOT consult an expert who has experience with highway-to-boulevard conversions before throwing out the idea, which she said has significant support among her constituents.

"If you want me to tell you what I think is the best idea, that's an at-grade roadway that is more of a boulevard conversion that incorporates transit and walkability," Conley said. "We are hearing from residents that they are interested in a slowdown, and not an expansion, of this freeway. So, I just can't stress that enough."

MnDOT also eliminated light rail along the freeway after determining there wouldn't be enough ridership to justify the cost, said consultant Robert McHaney. Instead, some of the alternatives propose dedicated bus rapid transit lanes with stops to be determined. Others suggest reducing the number of lanes to two in each direction.

One grassroots proposal for I-94, ReConnect Rondo, is a 15-year effort led by residents of St. Paul's Rondo neighborhood to build a land bridge over the highway between Grotto and Chatsworth streets that would double as an African American cultural enterprise district.

The land bridge wasn't included among the alternatives, but MnDOT consultant Jessica Karls nodded to the agency's "respect" for the neighborhood campaign, and promised "continued collaboration" with Rondo residents as Rethinking I-94 progresses.

MnDOT will publish the alternatives Wednesday on its Rethinking I-94 website and open an online survey to collect public feedback sometime this week. Representatives will meet with neighborhood groups and complete additional technical work before publishing draft documents for formal public comment next spring.

Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that the Twin Cities Boulevard proposal had been eliminated. To clarify, two of MnDOT's alternatives for rethinking Interstate 94 would replace the freeway with an at-grade roadway like a boulevard, incorporating some of the design concepts in the Twin Cities Boulevard proposal.