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 2027 or later, critical decisions are being made now that will determine the project’s future.
Happening Now: Environmental Impact Study (EIS) Process
The EIS process includes creating the project’s “Purpose and Need” documents, which are currently under development 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.
Next Steps for the Rethinking I-94 Project
Amended Purpose & Need Documents
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. This post contains a recap of that meeting. A summary of the new documents can be viewed here, however, as of October 2022, MnDOT has not made the full amended documents available to the public. When this occurs, it will be possible to assess whether the Rethinking I-94 project process will prioritize the health and well-being of neighboring communities or if it continue to prioritize highway traffic.
Initial Project Options
MnDOT is now designing and testing project options for the Rethinking I-94 corridor, which are known as “project alternatives.” During the September 26 PAC meeting, MnDOT confirmed that a highway-to-boulevard conversion is one of the ideas that is being studied for the corridor.
In October of 2022, MnDOT & Metro Transit unveiled the initial transit options that are being studied. This update post contains the transit open house presentation slides and additional information about what transit options MnDOT and Metro Transit are proposing.
Through the end of 2022, MnDOT will design project options. The initial project alternatives for the Rethinking I-94 corridor will likely be unveiled in early 2023. This list of alternatives will likely include a wide variety of project options, including a reconstructed highway, an expanded highway and a highway-to-boulevard conversion, among other options.
Scoping Decision Document
When the initial project alternatives are unveiled, 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 finalized in late 2023.
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.email@example.com