AASHTO Journal

MNDOT to Fund Four Highway Projects for $417M

​The Minnesota Department of Transportation is earmarking a total of $417 million to fund four highway projects over the next four years that are part of its "Corridors of Commerce" program

Created by Minnesota's legislature in 2013, MNDOT said the Corridors of Commerce program is focused on investing in projects that support commerce in the state, but that are not already considered in the state's transportation investment plan. Over the last five years, the program provided more than $330 million to dozens of projects statewide.

"Since 2013, the Corridors of Commerce program has funded projects that are important to the health of our transportation system and business climate, but not afforded in our four-year transportation investment plan," noted MNDOT Commissioner Charlie Zelle during a webcast news conference on May 1.

mndot-inside.jpg"The selected projects will enhance the movement of freight and people in the regions where these projects are located which will aid the economy and reduce congestion," he added. "These [four] projects are so important. We have prioritized the asset condition throughout the state, significant gap between preservation and expanding capacity of system. That is really what the Corridors of Commerce addresses; the strategic expansion of our transportation capacity."

The four projects receiving Corridors of Commerce funding in 2018 are:

  • Highway 169 in Elk River (Greater Minnesota) with a cost estimate of up to $157 million. This project will convert Highway 169 in Elk River to a freeway. The proposed project will construct interchanges at Main Street and School Street, 193rd Avenue, and a partial interchange at 197th Avenue. 
  • Highway 494, France Avenue to Highway 77 (Metro District) with a cost estimate of up to $134 million. This project will construct a MnPASS Express Lane on Interstate 494 from France Avenue to Highway 77 in the eastbound direction and a MnPASS lane from Highway 77 to I-35W in the westbound direction. The proposed project is intended to improve the capacity of the interstate and dramatically improve the reliability of the average rush hour trip. 
  • Highway 494, Bush Lake Road to Interstate 35W (Metro District) with a cost estimate of up to $70 million. This project will construct the first phase of a "turbine interchange" that includes a directional ramp for northbound I-35W to westbound I-494 traffic. The proposed project is intended to improve interstate capacity and reduce crashes. 
  • Highway 94, St. Michael to Albertville (Greater Minnesota) with a cost estimate up to $56 million. This project will expand I-94 from four to six lanes between Highway 241 in St. Michael and County Road 19 in Albertville. It is intended to improve the capacity of the interstate by adding a third lane in each direction and make interchange improvements at Highway 241 and at county roads 37 and 19 in Albertville. 

Back in January, MNDOT began soliciting project recommendations for its Corridors funding program from the public, including local units of government, transportation advocates and interested citizens, receiving a total of 299. After duplicate work and ineligible projects were removed, the agency had 172 project recommendations valued at $5.5 billion. 

With the assistance of a consultant engineering firm, the agency then scored and ranked the recommended projects using a set of eligibility and selection criteria required under state law, such as the proposed project's return on investment, economic impact, freight efficiency, safety improvement, regional connections, policy objectives and community consensus.

The final key requirement: 50 percent of selected project funding must be spent in Greater Minnesota, or those MNDOT areas that are not in the MNDOT Metro District, and 50 percent be spent in the Metro District, which is the seven-county metro area plus Chicago County.

Questions regarding this article may be directed to editor@aashtojournal.org.

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