for Comprehensive 35W Vision
future now tied to regional rapid bus issue
seven years of planning that culminated in city and county
approvals nearly a year ago, the I-35W Access project to provide
better freeway interchanges with south Minneapolis streets
still has a few more issues to resolve before details of its
construction will be cemented.
Because the Access project’s design for I-35W leaves
space for a future high-occupancy vehicle or bus rapid transit
(BRT) lane in each direction, and because it builds a BRT
station on I-35W at Lake Street, the project has become swept
up in the larger regional transportation picture. Minneapolis
has withheld its consent on another major I-35W project in
south Minneapolis, the Highway 62 “Crosstown”
interchange project, in a bid to extend BRT lanes into downtown.
In an effort to move the Crosstown project forward, a special
appeals board is expected to convene in mid-January to hear
this and other differences between Minneapolis and the Minnesota
Department of Transportation. The disposition of this issue
will light the course for both final design and funding of
the Access project.
Meanwhile, an MnDOT study of BRT on I-35W is expected to reach
the state legislature by the end of the year. And on December
15, the Metropolitan Council will take action on its 2030
Transportation and Transit Plan, which recognizes the I-35W
corridor as a high priority for BRT service.
Many other transportation funding plans are in the works for
local and state consideration, including proposals and evaluations
from Governor Pawlenty, the Itasca Project of Minnesota CEO’s,
the Minnesota Chambers of Commerce, the Minnesota Business
Partnership, North Area Mayors Association, Association of
Minnesota Counties, and the I-35W Solutions Alliance.
Each of these plans may affect the calculus of state bonding
required to extend BRT. Though the Access project has accumulated
$53 million in committed funds to date, a new funding plan
will need to account for the possible addition of BRT lanes
on I-35W north of 46th Street.
The centerpiece of the Phillips Partnership’s infrastructure
initiative, the I-35W Access project was designed with exhaustive
community input to improve freeway access and expand transit
service in South Minneapolis, with a focus on the Lake Street
corridor. Using an impacts mitigation plan of unprecedented
scale, Access will introduce urban design around the freeway
that is conducive to safer streets and the revitalization
of neighborhoods. The project is expected to cost $150 million.