Get ready for some traffic headaches near downtown Minneapolis. Officials Tuesday offered a final heads-up about major Twin Cities road construction near downtown in a project that's scheduled to wrap up years from now.
The $239 million improvement and reconstruction of Interstate 35W from 43rd Street to I-94 near downtown Minneapolis is entering a new and likely more disruptive stage.
Beginning at 10 p.m. Friday, MnDOT will close the main route from I-35W north to downtown Minneapolis for four months. Some exits leading out of the city to southbound 35W also will be closed.
From 10 p.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Monday, Interstate 94 will be closed in both directions between Interstates 394 and 35W.
• Take a look: Detailed map and chart of the projects • Previously: I-35W, I-94 weekend closures to test Twin Cities drivers
All that work will be followed by many more short- and long-term road, lane and ramp closures, as MnDOT presses ahead with the I-35W@94 Downtown to Crosstown project.
"MnDOT is making major changes to your commute to downtown Minneapolis," Scott McBride, MnDOT's metro district engineer said during a press conference at a park near the junction of 35W and I-94.
"To complete this work we do have to close lanes and ramps to allow crews to work safely," he advised. "We want you to be aware of these closures starting this weekend."
The work on the two-and-a-half-mile stretch of I-35W started last fall and is scheduled to be completed in the fall of 2021.
McBride said the department's website has maps, web tools and other guidance that people will need to navigate their way through or around the construction.
About 200,000 vehicles a day travel the portion of I-35W that'll be under construction. Much of the road's traffic will be diverted to Highway 100 and Interstate 394, Hiawatha Avenue and Interstate 35E.
Officials are urging motorists to plan their trips carefully to take the construction into account and telecommute, car pool, take public transit and do whatever else they can to reduce traffic on the affected stretches of highway.
"If you take transit, please keep doing that," said Robin Hutcheson, public works director for the city of Minneapolis. "Transit is one of the keys to lightening the driving load through this corridor. And if you take transit you will be rewarded with an exclusive lane for much of the corridor."
Hutcheson implored drivers who end up taking detours on city streets to be considerate.
"We ask that you remember that people are walking their dogs," she said. "Children are playing and daily life is going on in each one of these detour routes. Patience and kindness will be key to making sure that your travel experience is a good one and our neighborhoods can continue to enjoy the same quality of life that they do today."
While it might be harder to get to and from downtown Minneapolis, it'll be far from impossible. Steve Cramer, President and CEO of the Minneapolis Downtown Council said the city's core will be open for business.
"It's certainly going to be different, starting very soon, to get in and out of downtown from the south metro," he said. "But I want to emphasize downtown is open. Downtown is accessible for this period of time."
Cramer said he believes the construction project is well worth it.
"This project is essential to downtown's future," he said. "There's no question that these next three or four years are going to be a little more challenging. But measured in decades, this project will serve the vitality of our downtown and our region and our state. We will have better transit coming into downtown Minneapolis."
Moe Husein lives a few blocks away from the junction of I-35W and I-94. He drives a truck at night for the postal service and expects the construction will often be challenging.
"It's going to be a lot of frustration, a lot of traffic," he said. "Everybody has to find another way to get to work or find another route. This is a big highway. A lot of people use this highway."
But Husein said he expects the new roadways, bridges and other improvements will be worth it, even if it takes years to get there.