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MnDOT has begun planning for the reconstruction of I-94 in the Twin Cities. This will be the first major rebuild since the highway first opened in the 1960s. When it was built, homes and businesses all along the corridor were removed. The heart of the Rondo neighborhood lost 700 homes, 300 businesses and $35 million in intergenerational wealth. In St. Paul, 1 in 8 African Americans lost a home to the highway. Union Park also lost business districts and many homes. Today, harmful emissions from traffic increase risks for asthma, heart disease, and cancer.
In late 2020, Union Park District Council, along with 25 other community organizations, signed on to a community flyer and a letter to MnDOT about the project, calling for a greener, quieter, healthier corridor for the people who use it and live, work, and play nearby. Planning for this interstate highway corridor in the heart of the Twin Cities region should set a new standard for urban transportation projects.
In February 2021, the Saint Paul City Council passed a resolution strongly opposing reconstruction of I-94 in its current form, and rejecting the addition of any new lanes. The Minneapolis City Council passed a similar resolution. Both councils also asked for transit, pedestrian, and bicycle improvements for corridors over, under, and along the highway, and stated that an extension of the Midtown Greenway from Minneapolis into St. Paul to connect to Ayd Mill Road should be included as part of the project.
In late summer or fall of 2021, MnDOT will be adopting the official Purpose and Need Statement for the project, an important document which will guide the planning and study of project alternatives going forward. The public comment period may be only 30-60 days, and neighborhood input will be important at that time. If you're interested in having a community speaker address a group of neighbors or a civic organization, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about the current process, the history of I-94 in St. Paul, and urban highways, see the resources below.
About the current process:
Let’s rebuild I-94 in accord with our vision for a better future Barb Thoman (UPDC Transportation Committee Co-chair) and Debbie Meister (member of Neighborhoods First!), Villager, Feb. 17 2021
Will MnDOT be responsive to communities’ I-94 non-expansion demands? Bill Lindeke, MinnPost, Feb 2, 2021
History of I-94 in St Paul:
Read about the history of the Rondo Neighborhood and how it was affected by the highway.
Watch TPT documentaries:
History of I-94 in Merriam Park:
Preserving a "Fine Residential District" : The Merriam Park Freeway Fight Tom O'Connell and Tom Beer, Ramsey County History, Winter 2013.
Prior Ave and the Merriam Park Freeway Fight Andy Singer, Streets.mn, March 14, 2016.
"Were it not for a priest and a large group of dedicated community activists, Prior Avenue might look a lot like Snelling and Cretin. From 1959 until 1962, these folks fought a huge battle...to block freeway ramps at Prior.... The community campaign was one of the first neighborhood efforts to resist a freeway in Saint Paul and one of the only ones to succeed.... Community organizers needed...tactics like lining up 1,500 children along Prior Avenue from Saint Marks School, five blocks to the proposed freeway ramps in a protest that helped galvanize the neighborhood."
More information about urban highways:
"Revisiting the Urban Interstate: Freeway to the Future, or Road to Ruin?" Video recording of MoveMinneapolis 2021 Transportation Summit, May 18, 2021.
Near Roadway Air Pollution and Health: Frequently Asked Questions. US Environmental Protection Agency, 2013.
Proximity to Major Roadways. US Department of Transportation, 2015.
Traffic, Air Pollution, Minority and Socio-Economic Status: Addressing Inequities in Exposure and Risk. Gregory C. Pratt, et al., International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, May 2015.
"Populations on the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum and minorities were disproportionately exposed to traffic and air pollution and at a disproportionately higher risk for adverse health outcomes. Despite driving less, the air pollution impacts were higher from all sources—especially transportation sources—at non-white and low SES households that tended to be closer to the urban core. In contrast, block groups with more white and higher SES populations, often located outside the urban core, tended to have higher rates of car ownership and to drive more while the air pollution impacts at their homes tended to be lower from all sources. Recognizing these inequities can inform decision-making to reduce them."
Quantifying Traffic Exposure. Gregory C. Pratt, et al., Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology, September 2013.
Deconstruction Ahead: How Urban Highway Removal Is Changing Our Cities. Kathleen McCormick, Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, April 2020.
Freeway Revolts! Jeffrey Brinkman and Jeffrey Lin, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia Working Paper, July 2019.
Mapping the Effects of the Great 1960s ‘Freeway Revolts’ Linda Poon, Bloomberg CityLab, July 23, 2019.
"Inside cities, commuting benefits were eclipsed by the negative effects on the quality of life for those who lived near freeways. In city after city, urban highways split neighborhoods, walling residents off behind impenetrable “border vacuums” and creating barriers that blocked communities from accessing opportunities across town. That, in turn, hindered employment and income growth, and made travel within cities more difficult.... Over time, the construction of urban freeways sped population loss and lowered land values in city neighborhoods."