I-494 is a heavily used interstate highway that joins with I-694 to create a Loop around the Twin Cities Metro Area. The southwest stretch of the corridor provides direct access to major destinations such as the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and the Mall of America, cross city access for commuters and freight, and local access for the numerous businesses and residents along the freeway. It is also one of the most heavily congested roads in the state.
To address congestion along the southwest portion of I-494, the State of Minnesota has been working with the cities along the corridor, the I-494 Corridor Coalition and the I-35W Solutions Alliance to develop a vision for how the freeway can increase capacity and better serve the growing multimodal needs of the community. The "I-494: Airport to Hwy 169" project will develop and construct long term solutions that will:
- Provide a transit advantage to increase the number of people who can be efficiently moved through the corridor
- Improve the reliability of the average rush-hour trip
- Improve safety
- Restore pavement to preserve infrastructure and provide a smoother ride
- Improve drainage systems to reduce localized flooding and reduce run-off into the Minnesota River
- Preserve existing bridges
The I-494/Hwy 62 Congestion Relief Study, which concluded in 2017, identified MnPASS lanes as key elements in improving the flow of traffic along the freeway. In May of 2018, Corridors of Commerce awarded $134 million in state funds to implement MnPASS lanes from EB France Ave. to Hwy 77 and from WB Hwy 77 to I-35W. MnPASS provides dedicated lanes to transit, motorcycles, vehicles with two or more occupants, and paid MnPASS tag holders to move the most people along the highway. An additional $70 million was awarded to construct a directional ramp for NB I-35W to WB I-494 traffic.
The current stage of this project will determine what needs to be done, evaluate design alternatives and begin the environmental review process. The proposed project is envisioned to not only improve the capacity of the interstate, but dramatically improve the reliability of the average rush hour trip.