The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) this week announced the road projects selected to receive Corridors of Commerce funding for 2018. Corridors of Commerce is a special funding program within MnDOT for road projects that will improve the movement of commerce throughout Minnesota. Projects are evaluated for safety improvements, regional connectivity, return on investment, and community consensus, among other factors.
The projects selected for 2018 include:
- Highway 169 in Elk River– estimate up to $174 million
This project will convert Highway 169 in Elk River to a freeway. The proposed project will construct interchanges at Main Street and School Street, 193rd Avenue, and a partial interchange at 197th
- Highway 494, France Avenue to Highway 77– estimate up to $149 million
This project will construct a MnPASS lane on Interstate 494 from France Avenue to Highway 77 in the eastbound direction and a MnPASS lane from Highway 77 to I-35W in the westbound direction. The proposed project is intended to improve the capacity of the interstate and dramatically improve the reliability of the average rush hour trip.
- Highway 494, Bush Lake Road to Interstate 35W– estimate up to $79 million
This project will construct the first phase of a turbine interchange that includes a directional ramp for northbound I-35W to westbound I-494 traffic. The proposed project is intended to improve interstate capacity and reduce crashes.
- Highway 94, St. Michael to Albertville – estimate up to $62 million
This project will expand I-94 from four to six lanes between Highway 241 in St. Michael and County Road 19 in Albertville. The proposed project is intended to improve the capacity of the interstate by adding a third lane in each direction and make interchange improvements at Highway 241 and at county roads 37 and 19 in Albertville.
Supporters of the selected projects are pleased that bottlenecks in our current system—especially those in the south Metro—will see relief in congestion. The I-35W and I-494 intersection is the 17th busiest in the nation and has needed improvements for decades. The addition of a MnPass lane between France Avenue and Highway 77 should reduce travel times on the busy stretch of highway.
Others have expressed concern that the projects selected do not truly reflect geographic balance throughout the state. All the selected projects are within a 50-mile radius of the Twin Cities. It is a program requirement that 50% of the funding be spent outside the MnDOT Metro District, and 50% be spent in the Metro District, which is the seven-county metro area plus Chisago County.