I-35W/I-94/MN 55 "Spaghetti Junction", Downtown
Prior to the collapse of the I-35W Mississippi River bridge, MnDOT had been
studying the downtown Minneapolis freeway network with an eye towards short-term
and mid-term improvements and a long-term vision. While the bridge
collapse accelerated plans (obviously) for a new I-35W river bridge, there has
been no new information on the rest of the freeway study.
A major part of the long-range vision involves reconstruction and improvement
of the I-35W/I-94 commons area, locally known as "Spaghetti Junction". A
conceptual vision from mid-2007 highlighted additional lanes on both I-35W and
I-94, revised ramps, several new ramps for local access, improved frontage roads
for local circulation, and the addition of ramps for the "missing movements",
from WB I-94 to NB I-35W and SB I35W to EB I-94.
Here is my idea for the I-35W/I-94/MN 55 junction area, overlaid on top of 2005 aerial imagery from NAIP.
Click on the image for a larger graphic (warning, larger graphic is 1.0MB).
This idea is based largely on the conceptual vision MnDOT developed in 2007,
while making some improvements that I felt were lacking from the conceptual
vision. Some of the highlights of my idea, starting with Interstate
mainline highlights, then ramp/street improvements arranged from southwest to
- At least 3 through lanes in each direction on I-35W.
- At least 4 through lanes in each direction on I-94.
- Auxiliary lanes between interchange ramps, as appropriate (i.e. along
eastbound I-94 between northbound I-35W on-ramp and exit ramp to eastbound
MN 55/Hiawatha Ave).
- Smoother curves along I-35W. The western curve, currently a 35 MPH
"hairpin" curve that is the scene of many accidents, is improved to at least
45 MPH (and possibly even 50 MPH), while the eastern 50 MPH curve is
improved to 55 MPH.
- Dedicated BRT/HOV lanes to/from I-35W South, with direct connections to
I-94 West, 4th/5th Avenues, and 11th St (11th St requires a contraflow HOV
lane east of Marquette Ave).
- Dedicated BRT/HOV lanes to/from I-35W North, with direct connections to
- Northbound I-35W exits to downtown and both directions of I-94
consolidated into a single right-hand exit.
- New ramp from northbound I-35W to 15th St, with additional access
possible via improvements to 15th St and 4th Ave S.
- New ramp from westbound I-94 towards Hennepin/Lyndale Avenues, to
minimize the weave along westbound I-94 between the I-35W on-ramp and the
exit to Hennepin/Lyndale.
- New one-way frontage road along the south side of I-94, from Blaisdell
Ave to 3rd Ave, and tying into a new on-ramp from 3rd Ave to southbound
- New ramp from southbound I-35W to Franklin Ave (joins one-way frontage
road at 19th St/5th Ave).
- New one-way frontage road connection from Franklin Ave/4th Ave to 18th
St/Portland Ave, continuing as an improved one-way 18th St east to 14th Ave
S and tying into a new on-ramp to eastbound I-94.
- New ramp from westbound I-94 to 17th St, continuing as an improved
one-way 17th St west to Portland Ave, then a new one-way frontage road
connection from 17th St/Portland Ave to 15th St/5th Ave and further
connecting to 11th St.
- New ramp from westbound I-94 to 7th St, replacing the existing ramp to
5th St (this done for better downtown connectivity, since 7th St continues
through downtown while 5th St is cut off due to the Hiawatha LRT line).
- Streamlined "split diamond" interchange on I-35W at Washington Ave and
3rd/4th Streets/U-of-M. Direct ramps provided for northbound I-35W to
eastbound CSAH 122 (towards East Bank), southbound I-35W to westbound 3rd
St, and eastbound 4th St to northbound I-35W. Maintains all existing
access and provides additional access between downtown and I-35W North.
Some existing ramps and access points will need to be removed in order to
make the other improvements. They are:
- Franklin Ave (at 5th Ave) to eastbound I-94.
- 15th St (at 4th Ave) to westbound I-94.
- Westbound I-94 to 11th St.
- Northbound I-35W/MN 65 to Grant St East.
- Southbound I-35W to 11th Ave.
- Westbound I-94 to 5th St (replaced by new ramp to 7th St).
- (Optional): Westbound I-94 to Cedar Ave (may be needed due to
tight spacing between Riverside Ave and existing 5th St ramp).
- (Optional): Cedar Ave to eastbound I-94 (may be needed due to
tight spacing between 6th St on-ramp and Riverside Ave).
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Page last modified
15 June, 2008