Frequently Asked Questions

Traffic Impacts & Driving Time

“Fewer lanes? We need more lanes! I hate being stuck in traffic.”

  • This is an understandable response. Nobody likes being stuck in traffic.
  • It’s important to remember that traffic on I-94 is already often slowed to a crawl because of rush hour, bad weather, a crash or construction.
  • Decades of data has shown that expanding highways causes more people to drive, thus worsening traffic congestion. 
  • This is why when North America’s biggest freeway in Houston was expanded to 26 lanes, it only made traffic congestion worse three years later.
 The 26 lane Katy Freeway in Houston
The 26 lane Katy Freeway in Houston

How will the Twin Cities Boulevard impact me if driving is the primary way that I get around?

  • Replacing the highway with a multi-modal boulevard will still include lanes for people to drive.
  • Although I-94 was built for suburban commuters and long-distance trips, many trips on this segment of I-94 are short, local trips that begin or end within the corridor.
  • The Twin Cities Boulevard will do a better job of serving this local traffic. While it may add a few minutes, driving times will likely be more reliable because crashes, construction and suburban commuting will be reduced.
  • By designating I-494 or I-694 as the main interstate, through traffic that is headed to destinations like Chicago or Fargo can more conveniently travel around the core cities.
  • There are also plenty of other high-speed driving options between Minneapolis and Saint Paul. In addition to I-494 and I-694, Highway 36 and Highway 62 add less than 5 minutes of driving time to the trip.
  • A highway-to-boulevard conversion will make transportation faster, cheaper and easier, because:
    • Improving transit, biking and walking options gives people better, more affordable transportation choices. While some people will continue to drive, others will choose new ways of getting around.
    • In previous highway removal projects, like in San Francisco and Seoul, traffic congestion improved after the highway was removed.

Without the highway, won’t traffic just cut through my neighborhood?

  • Cut-through traffic is a common and understandable concern that comes up every time a highway-to-boulevard conversion project is discussed.
    • In all examples of past highway-to-boulevard projects, car traffic dramatically decreased and the feared impacts to neighborhood streets never came true.
    • This effect is commonly referred to as “traffic evaporation.”
    • Here is a 2002 study that demonstrated traffic evaporation after reviewing what happened to traffic levels when road space was reallocated in 70 case studies
  • There are a few main reasons why traffic evaporation happens. For I-94, we predict that:
    • Through traffic will opt to take alternate routes that avoid the core cities, including Highway 36, Highway 62, I-494 and I-694
    • Suburban commuters will be incentivized to telework, take transit and carpool more often
    • The boulevard’s improved transit, walking and biking options will make it convenient for people to drive less
    • Reclaimed freeway land will support new businesses, vastly improving walkable access to everyday needs and making driving trips shorter
    • The above factors each reduce the amount and length of car trips, causing much of the highway traffic to “evaporate”
    • The remaining car traffic will be easily accommodated by the new boulevard and reconnected street grid
  • To summarize, people make decisions based on the transportation options that are available to them. We get what we build for – so let’s build something better!

Rethinking I-94 Project Status

Where are things at with the Rethinking I-94 project? Has MnDOT said what options they are considering?

  • MnDOT has not yet revealed potential project options, which are called “alternatives.” First, MnDOT has to follow a specific process required by state and federal law called the Environmental Impact Study or “EIS.”
    • We expect that MnDOT will reveal a list of project options in late 2022, so now is the time to tell MnDOT what we want those options to look like.

“When will project construction start?”

  • That hasn’t been determined yet but MnDOT has indicated that construction could begin as early as 2026. Although construction won’t start for a few years, key decisions about the project are being made now.

For more information about the Rethinking I-94 project, go here.

Community Input

“How finalized is the Twin Cities Boulevard vision?”

  • The Twin Cities Boulevard is a high-level vision for what the I-94 corridor could look like without a freeway. The project corridor spans 7.5 miles, thus community needs and priorities will vary. Our intention is to build a community-centered movement and to co-create the details of this vision over time in partnership with communities along the corridor. As such, Twin Cities Boulevard will continue to evolve and change as communities are engaged. This is your vision!

“How will you consult and engage with community members about this vision?”

  • The creation of the Twin Cities Boulevard vision is only the beginning of an ongoing process to build a vision and movement together. We will be seeking community input by taking the vision directly to neighbors, via door-knocking, phone-banking, and virtual and in-person events to ensure that everyone’s voice is heard and reflected by MnDOT.

“How can I share my ideas & priorities?” 

  • To share your input, please complete this feedback survey. You can also contact us. We’d love to meet with you to discuss ways to involve you and your community in this effort.

Highway Cap / Land Bridge

“Why not just keep the highway and build land bridges on top of it?”

  • The Twin Cities Boulevard aims to fill in the I-94 highway trench and replace it with a multi-modal boulevard, returning the surrounding land to adjacent communities via a community land trust.
  • Land bridges, also known as highway caps/lids consist of wide deck-bridges that cover a small segment of the highway and often include green space. Some bridges can also support small buildings.
  • Land bridges have been used in cities like Dallas, Denver and Seattle to cover small segments of the highway and mitigate some of the negative effects.

If a land bridge is chosen for the Rethinking I-94 project, it means the highway will be rebuilt underneath it. This would leave the highways harms in place for another 50 years or longer.

  • A land bridge would not improve air quality or reduce the highway’s health impacts like asthma, cancer and dementia risk
  • A land bridge would not improve transportation options for the 28% of people who cannot access a car
  • A land bridge would not reduce greenhouse gas emissions
  • A land bridge would not reduce traffic noise in 95% of the Rethinking I-94 project corridor
  • A land bridge would not reduce traffic injuries and deaths that occur on I-94 every year
  • A land bridge would not reconnect 95% of the project corridor
  • The Twin Cities Boulevard is a much better alternative for Rethinking I-94. For more reasons why, go here.

We are concerned that MnDOT could use the inclusion of a land bridge in their Rethinking I-94 project to suppress community opposition to a reconstructed highway.

  • This has occurred in other cities like El Paso, Austin, Denver and Portland, where state departments of transportation added land bridges to highway expansion projects to suppress community opposition.
  • These land bridge projects also have a history of being gradually watered down as the highway project progresses and costs increase and cities are unwilling to take on the enormous long-term maintenance costs of highway caps.

“How does the Twin Cities Boulevard vision relate to the land bridge proposed by Reconnect Rondo?”

  • Both the Twin Cities Boulevard and ReConnect Rondo’s land bridge proposal are visions for MnDOT’s Rethinking I-94 project.
  • Reconnect Rondo is a non-profit organization focused on reconnecting the Rondo neighborhood via land bridge over I-94.
  • The story of the Rondo neighborhood is central to the racist and destructive history of I-94. I-94 was intentionally routed through predominantly Black neighborhoods like Rondo, destroying homes, businesses and generational wealth. As we build the Twin Cities Boulevard vision, the Rondo community is a critically important voice in this effort and the future of their community. 
  • ReConnect Rondo aims to reconnect the Rondo neighborhood via a three to five block land bridge, or freeway cap over I-94. The organization also aims to create wealth-building opportunities for Rondo’s Black residents and descendants via the creation of an African American cultural enterprise district that encompasses the broader neighborhood. This is important work and we share the vision of reparative justice for the Rondo neighborhood.
  • However, a land bridge would not repair the highway’s harms. Instead it would result in the reconstruction of the highway, cementing disinvestment and environmental injustice for another half century.
  • The Twin Cities Boulevard fully repairs the highway’s harms in the entire corridor by:
    • Reconnecting the Rondo neighborhood and every community in the 7.5 mile project corridor
    • Reclaiming highway land, placing it in a community land trust and prioritizing those who have been disproportionately impacted. This land could be included in an African American cultural enterprise district.
    • Improving affordable transportation options for transit-dependent households
    • Improving air pollution and reducing disparities in asthma, cancer and other traffic pollution related outcomes
    • Setting clear benchmarks for the project workforce, new housing and commercial space and anti-displacement policies

Learn more about why a highway-to-boulevard conversion is the best path for reparative justice here.

Freight

“How will this impact freight traffic and the movement of goods?”

  • Previous highway-to-boulevard projects have been shown to have minimal impacts on local freight shipments.
  • Businesses thrive in many major cities across the world that never built wide freeways through their core neighborhoods, like Paris, Vancouver and London.
  • For local deliveries, removing and replacing freeways in cities incentivizes the use of smaller delivery vehicles that pollute less and are safer to operate in city neighborhoods.
  • The Twin Cities Boulevard will accommodate shipments to local residents and businesses.
  • Long-distance truck traffic will be able to utilize alternative freeway routes that avoid the core cities, including Highway 36, Highway 62, I-494 and I-694.
  • It’s important to remember that urban freeways like I-94 represent massive public subsidies for the freight industry that harm the people who live near them. This is why freeways with high levels of freight traffic are known as the diesel death zone.

Transportation Access

“How will the Twin Cities Boulevard improve transportation options for working class people?”

  • The Twin Cities Boulevard will easily accommodate local car traffic, adding only a few minutes to driving times.
  • It is also important to point out that I-94 disproportionately serves the wealthiest commuters.
    • In Minneapolis for example, the average drive-alone commuter has an income 50% higher than the average transit commuter.
  • For many people, driving a car is not an option. These include:
    • People who have a disability that prevents them from driving
    • People who cannot afford the increasingly high cost of owning and maintaining a car
    • People who are undocumented
    • People who are too young to drive
  • More than one in four households along the Rethinking I-94 project corridor don’t have access to a car.
    • The number of car-free households is higher for Black, Indigenous and people of color.
  • For people without a car, I-94 is largely inaccessible
    • The bus only runs during certain times and is often slow and unreliable.
    • The average transit commute in Saint Paul takes nearly twice as long as the average driving commute.
    • Walking and rolling across the widely spaced freeway bridges is difficult and dangerous, especially in the winter when snow and ice cover the sidewalk.
    • There are no safe places to bike along the corridor.
  • By adding faster public transit service, reconnecting the street grid, improving sidewalks and adding fully protected bikeways, the Twin Cities Boulevard will increase affordable and accessible transportation options for everyone.

“How will this impact me if I currently use the highway to access employment in the suburbs?”

  • People will still be able to travel to and from the suburbs, either by car or by using new public transit options.
  • I-94 was built to facilitate suburban development, and has caused businesses and job opportunities to move out of Minneapolis and Saint Paul and into the distant suburbs.
  • By replacing the freeway with a multi-modal boulevard, we can return that investment and those jobs to our communities.

“Why should I care about bike lanes? I don’t bike.”

  • The Twin Cities Boulevard vision is about much more than adding a bikeway.
  • While biking may not be for everyone, it is important that people have access to safe biking infrastructure, which is currently non-existent in the corridor.
  • It is especially important for people who don’t have access to a car. In the Twin Cities, people with lower incomes are more likely to bike than wealthy ones.
  • Importantly, studies have shown that many more people bike when they are provided with safe and accessible options to do so.

Economic Vitality

“How will this impact our region? The highway is needed to bring jobs and economic activity.”

  • There are many examples of cities that did not build freeways through their neighborhoods, and they have continued to thrive.
  • This false argument was commonly used by transportation planners in the 1950s to justify building freeways through city neighborhoods.
  • The reality is that the highway has existed for over 60 years. If it was going to bring economic vitality, it would have happened by now.
  • This reasoning also obscures the true reason that freeways were constructed, to service high-speed commutes for suburban residents.
  • I-94’s construction occurred at a severe cost:
    • The digging of I-94’s trench destroyed hundreds of businesses and forced thousands of people to leave their homes.
    • 6,000 people were displaced in Saint Paul.
    • In Minneapolis, 24,000 people, or one in every 20 residents, lost their home to freeway construction.
  • This is the opportunity to bring local businesses and economic vitality back.
  • Instead of a highway that serves the suburbs, we need more jobs and economic investment here in our communities.
  • By returning freeway land to local communities and placing it in a community land trust, we can create better employment opportunities locally.

Electric Vehicles

“Won’t electric cars eliminate air pollution from traffic?”

  • The idea that electric vehicles will eliminate the environmental impact of freeways is a lie perpetuated by corporations who profit from car-dependency and freeway expansion.
  • It is going to take decades to fully electrify cars and trucks. 
  • Currently, less than 1% of cars in Minnesota are electric and the average car is 12 years old. We can’t sacrifice the well-being of people who live here now by hoping that things will improve in 30 years.
  • Many of the most damaging pollutants like fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) come from the wear and tear of tires and brakes.
  • Recent research has shown that these pollutants will continue and could worsen with heavier electric vehicles.
  • Improving air quality will require reducing car traffic and improving access to clean transportation options like transit, walking and biking.

“Won’t electric cars eliminate greenhouse gas emissions?”

  • As previously stated, it is going to take decades to fully electrify cars and trucks.
  • Even with rapid electrification, the scientific consensus is that people also need to drive less and walk, bike and take transit more. 
  • According to an Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) report, it will be impossible to meet the necessary emissions reduction targets without reducing driving and improving access to walking, biking and mass transit.

Funding & Feasibility

“How will the Twin Cities Boulevard be paid for?”

  • The Twin Cities Boulevard will not require the creation of additional funding sources. Highway-to-boulevard projects can be paid for using the funding sources that would otherwise be used to reconstruct and/or expand the interstate.
  • The Twin Cities Boulevard is a vision for MnDOT’s Rethinking I-94 project.
  • The Rethinking I-94 project will be funded by a combination of federal and state sources. The majority of these funding sources are flexible and can be used for any transportation project.
  • In addition to existing state and federal funding, MnDOT is expected to receive $4.5 billion dollars from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
  • The bills also includes $1 billion for the creation of a Reconnecting Communities program, which aims to repair the harm caused by urban freeways. This program could be also used to fund the Twin Cities Boulevard.

“Filling in the freeway trench sounds expensive, how can we afford it?”

  • The Twin Cities Boulevard is the most cost-effective solution for Rethinking I-94 and will save millions of taxpayer dollars over its lifetime.
  • Building and maintaining freeways is expensive. The cost of filling in the freeway trench and building the Twin Cities Boulevard is nothing compared to what MnDOT spends on highways every year
  • MnDOT is planning to spend $900 million dollars on highway expansions in the metro area alone.
  • Since the pavement, retaining walls, bridges and other infrastructure on I-94 are nearing the end of their useful life, the cost of reconstructing the freeway could likely approach $1 billion
  • The Twin Cities Boulevard is the most cost-effective solution for Rethinking I-94 and will save millions of taxpayer dollars over its lifetime.
  • Building and maintaining freeways is expensive. The cost of filling in the freeway trench and building the Twin Cities Boulevard is nothing compared to what MnDOT spends on highways every year
  • MnDOT is planning to spend $900 million dollars on highway expansions in the metro area alone.
    • This includes spending $320 million to expand I-494 and potentially spending over $100 million to expand I-94 through North Minneapolis.
    • A recent report showed that MnDOT plans to ask for an additional $6 billion to expand freeways in the metro area.
    • In addition to the severe harms to surrounding communities, this expensive investment in freeways generates no tax revenue to support essential public services
  • Since the pavement, retaining walls, bridges and other infrastructure on I-94 are nearing the end of their useful life, the cost of reconstructing the freeway could likely approach $1 billion.
  • Replacing the freeway trench with a multi-modal boulevard will eliminate the cost of bridge and retaining wall repairs and maintenance, reduce the cost of ongoing cost of pavement maintenance and generate new tax revenue
  • The Twin Cities Boulevard can be paid for via existing state and federal transportation dollars

“Removing a freeway seems like a radical idea. Has a project like this ever happened before?”

  • There are dozens of examples of successful highway-to-boulevard conversion projects and momentum for these projects in the United States has picked up in recent years.
  • Highway removal has successfully occurred in Milwaukee, San Francisco and Seoul and projects have been approved in cities such as Syracuse, Detroit and Oakland. 
  • In fact, there has never been a highway-to-boulevard project in the United State or abroad that wasn’t a success.
  • In truth, the truly radical idea was demolishing thousands of homes and businesses to build I-94 through city neighborhoods in the first place!
  • The Rethinking I-94 project is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to benefit our communities.
    • It’s unacceptable that people who live near the highway must live with constant traffic noise and increased risk of cancer, asthma and other illnesses only to save a few minutes of driving time for suburban commuters. 
    • It’s unacceptable that the freeway provides nothing for the one in four households without cars.
    • It’s unacceptable that many highway-adjacent communities lack safe, direct walkable access to their basic needs.
    • It’s unacceptable that MnDOT continues to ignore the climate crisis. 
  • The Twin Cities Boulevard is a common sense solution to addresses these issues.

Displacement and Gentrification

“Projects like this usually lead to gentrification and people who aren’t from here pushing us out. How will you prevent this from happening?”

  • We agree that large infrastructure investments often do lead to gentrification and displacement. This is why our demands include a community benchmarks and anti-displacement policy platform to ensure these policies are integrated into the Rethinking I-94 project process. This includes placing all reclaimed freeway land into a community land trust and demanding full transparency on potential impacts on rents and property taxes. 
    • MnDOT and Rethinking I-94 project partners must meet these benchmarks and invest in the quality of life of existing residents in order to avoid displacement pressures like increased rents, property tax hikes or speculative development.

For a full overview of these benchmarks, go here.

“How will you ensure that new housing and commercial space are affordable and meet the needs of existing residents?”

  • By placing reclaimed freeway land and adjacent publicly owned land parcels in a community land trust, the Twin Cities Boulevard vision aims to give communities control over any development that results from the project.
  • The land trust would include requirements to ensure that the majority of new retail and commercial spaces are occupied by local business owners and entrepreneurs.
  • We are also advocating for the creation of a local business incubator program to give the businesses who are already here the support they need to take advantage of this opportunity and help aspiring entrepreneurs from neighborhoods along the project corridor launch their business ideas.
  • We are also advocating for policies and benchmarks to ensure that the majority of new housing that results from the project is truly affordable and prioritizes existing residents and those who had been previously displaced. 
  • This includes establishing a program to provide residents with the resources they need to become homeowners. These resources include free first-time homebuyer classes, credit repair services and access to capital.
  • We want you to help us build public pressure to make sure this project creates opportunities for locally-owned businesses and truly affordable housing instead of a rebuilt freeway.

Project Labor Benchmarks

“These projects always talk about “creating jobs” but I never see them. How will you ensure that this isn’t the case with Rethinking I-94?”

  • You are correct that Minnesota construction projects, especially transportation projects, usually fail to meet their local, minority-owned (MBE) and woman-owned (WBE) hiring goals. 
  • This is why we are advocating for strict public accountability and demanding that MNDOT do more to ensure these goals are met.
  • We are asking for you and your neighbors to join us to build public pressure and maintain eyes on the Rethinking I-94 project to ensure that we see local hiring and community benefits.
  • For more information on labor benchmarks, go here.

Construction Impacts

“How will local residents and businesses deal with the construction impacts of this project?”

  • It is important to remember that MnDOT created the Rethinking I-94 project because the pavement, retaining walls and bridges on I-94 are nearing the end of their useful lives. One way or another, a massive construction project and the resulting disruption is going to occur.
  • Our demands for the Twin Cities Boulevard include that businesses and residents are informed and supported throughout the project process.
  • This includes the creation of a fund to support existing businesses throughout the construction process.