The Twin Cities Boulevard is a vision for MnDOT’s “Rethinking I-94” project. Learn more about this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to rethink the highway corridor and invest in a better future.
What is the Rethinking I-94 project?
The pavement, retaining walls, bridges and underlying infrastructure on I-94 between downtown Minneapolis and downtown Saint Paul is nearing the end of its useful life. Rethinking I-94 is a Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) project that will determine the future of the corridor. The Rethinking I-94 project area is currently a 7.5 mile stretch of I-94 from Hiawatha Avenue in Minneapolis to Marion Street in Saint Paul.
Project Status & Timeline
MnDOT created the Rethinking I-94 project in 2016, beginning with initial outreach and public engagement. While construction likely won’t begin until 2028 or later, critical decisions are being made now that will determine the project’s future.
The Rethinking I-94 project is currently undergoing an Environmental Impact Study (EIS) process
The EIS process includes creating the project’s “Purpose and Need” documents, which are developed by MnDOT and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). The project’s “purpose” is a broad statement of the primary intended results and objectives to be achieved by a proposed project. The project’s “needs” identify its specific problems to be solved.
The identified “purpose and needs” will then be used for developing and evaluating project alternatives, which are the various project options to be studied. As a result, these documents will be critical for determining if Rethinking I-94 truly reimagines the corridor or if it is merely a rebranded highway repair and/or expansion project.
In 2021, MnDOT revealed draft versions of these documents. The draft documents would have paved the way for more of the same, a reconstructed freeway with more traffic, more air pollution, climate emissions and environmental injustice, more divided communities, wasted tax dollars and insufficient transportation options.
28 community organizations call on MnDOT to do better
In response, 28 Minneapolis and Saint Paul community organizations sent a joint letter to the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) calling on them to amend the draft EIS documents for Rethinking I-94. The letter highlighted critical issues with the draft documents and emphasized the critical opportunity that the Rethinking I-94 project provides to address the negative impacts of the highway and benefit adjacent neighborhoods. Signing groups called on MnDOT to put the needs of local communities first and prioritize improving outcomes in public health, transportation access and climate emissions.
Upon receiving the community letter and more than 400 public comments calling for improved project documents, then MnDOT Commissioner Margaret Anderson Kelliher announced that amended project documents would be unveiled in 2022. Her announcement was made during the December 2021 Rethinking I-94 Policy Advisory Committee meeting.
On September 26, 2022, MnDOT presented on the changes to the project’s Purpose & Need documents during the Rethinking I-94 Policy Advisory Committee (PAC) meeting. A summary of the new documents can be viewed here.
Happening now: MnDOT is collecting feedback on project options
MnDOT is now designing and testing project options for the Rethinking I-94 corridor, which are known as “project alternatives.” MnDOT unveiled 10 initial project options during a public meeting on July 18, 2023. You can read a recap of the meeting here. Two of initial options, “at-grade A” and “at-grade B”, would replace the freeway with an at-grade boulevard with bus rapid transit and repurpose the remaining MnDOT right-of-way.
Following the release of the project options, MnDOT launched a public survey to collect feedback on each option and comments on what options should be added. Click here to read a summary of the survey’s questions with suggested comments.
Next Steps for the Rethinking I-94 Project
MnDOT has clarified that the proposed designs are high level options, and that additional refinements and details would be made in the coming months. MnDOT will continue to collect feedback on the initial options via the public survey. MnDOT will also host two in-person open house events, one in Minneapolis and one in Saint Paul, as well as a virtual feedback session on Zoom. Those events are expected to occur in August and September, however specific dates are currently unknown.
Over the next few months, MnDOT will collect feedback on the initial options and will reconvene the Policy Advisory Committee in late 2023 to share an update. Based on community feedback, it is possible that options could be added, removed, or changed. Ultimately, in the spring of 2024, MnDOT will narrow down the list of options that will continue to be evaluated. This step of the process is called the scoping decision document.
Scoping Decision Document
When the refined list of project alternatives are determined, they will be included in the project’s draft Scoping Decision Document (SDD). This document also includes the Purpose & Need documents and determines which alternatives will be studied and how they will be evaluated. Eventually, one of these options will be selected as the “preferred alternative” for Rethinking I-94. MnDOT’s current timeline says that the Scoping Decision Document will be created in spring of 2024 and a preferred alternative will be selected during the “Tier 1 EIS process” that follows.
Oftentimes, these documents are written in a way that all but assumes the highway will be rebuilt and expanded. It is critical that the Twin Cities Boulevard vision and a wide variety of non-highway options are included in the Scoping Decision Document’s potential alternatives. It is equally important that the Scoping Decision Document’s purpose, needs, goals and evaluation criteria prioritize the health & well-being of the surrounding community and give fair consideration to a highway-to-boulevard conversion.
Make your voice heard!
Now is a critical time to contact MnDOT and other project decision makers to share your support for the Twin Cities Boulevard and project options that fully repair the highway’s harms.
You can do so by taking the action step below or sending an email to the MnDOT project team at rethinkingI94project.firstname.lastname@example.org