Ramping Up

Decision on Crosstown Advances I-35W Access Project

June 2005—When the City of Minneapolis and the Minnesota Department of Transportation resolved their differences over the Crosstown/I-35W interchange this spring, they also announced a comprehensive vision for the I-35W Corridor that includes bus rapid transit (BRT) and improved freeway access at Lake Street.

In 2004, Minneapolis withheld its consent on Crosstown for multiple reasons, including a position that the Crosstown project include a more explicit commitment to bus rapid transit accommodations. City, County, and regional leaders, along with State Representatives Frank Hornstein and Mary Liz Holberg, are promoting BRT along I-35W to connect Lakeville to downtown Minneapolis.

The I-35W Access Project, sponsored jointly by the Phillips Partnership and Hennepin County, focuses on improving freeway connections for commercial thoroughfares and major employers in and around the Phillips neighborhood. Improved freeway access is considered absolutely essential by many South Minneapolis businesses and residents, including those who are investing in the new Midtown Exchange. The Access Project includes new ramps between 28th and 38th Street and mulitple accommodations for BRT.

At the close of 2004, the design process for the Access Project had come to a halt, awaiting resolution of the larger I-35W Corridor discussions and implementation of Governor Pawlenty's commitment of $1 million in state funding for the Access Project design activities.

In March, a special panel recommended that a BRT station at 46th Street be included in the Crosstown project. The panel’s report made several references to the Access Project as part of plansfor the freeway corridor. LieutenantGovernor and Transportation Commissioner Carol Molnau agreed to the recommendations, ending the stalemate.

Molnau simultaneously announced agreement on how to utilize available funding, including Governor Pawlenty’s October 2003 commitment of $1 million for Access Project design activities.

The Corridor project is likely to include reconstruction of the connections between I-35W and I-94 in the commons area, based on further study.

Molnau also announced that MnDOT will lead the freeway design, while Hennepin County will lead context-sensitive design elements.

The $240-million Crosstown project will begin on schedule in 2006, placing the probable start of Access in 2009.