Minnesota Department of Transportation

511 Travel Info

I-494: Airport to Highway 169

Bloomington, Richfield, Edina, Eden Prairie in Hennepin County

Background

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
  • Improve intersections to meet ADA guidelines
  • Improve the pedestrian and bicycle network

The I-494/Hwy 62 Congestion Relief Study, which concluded in 2017, identified E-ZPASS 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 E-ZPASS lanes from EB France Ave. to Hwy 77 and from WB Hwy 77 to I-35W. E-ZPASS provides dedicated lanes to transit, motorcycles, vehicles with two or more occupants, and paid E-ZPASS 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. In 2021, the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) awarded $60 million

The current stage is focusing on the first construction project to finalize preliminary design and environmental review process.

How public input shaped the I-494 Vision

Public input is one of the criteria considered in the design process of the I-494 vision. Public input allowed the design team to better understand community needs and identify key issues that should be addressed.

Since the fall of 2018, we talked with thousands of local and regional residents, businesses, and corridor users to guide the development of future improvements for the I-494 vision.

We heard what issues were important to you and got your feedback on changes to access along the highway. You let us know that traffic congestion and safety along the interstate were your main priorities. We heard that drivers felt unsafe by the proximity of entrance and exit ramps near Nicollet Ave., Portland Ave., and 12th Ave. You also let us know that you could support changes to access ramps if they improved these issues.

These conversations were critical in identifying goals that guided the design process.

Public opinion on most important things to address on I-494. Top 3 most important are Mobility, Safety, and Pavement Conditions.
Public opinion on whether they support reducing number of exits to improve safety and reduce congestion. 59% said yes, 17% said no, and 24% said I’m not sure.
Public’s major concerns about changes to entrance and exit ramps at Nicollet, Lyndale, Portland, and 12th Avenue. Top 3 concerns are Traffic, Access, and Safety.

What didn’t make the cut for the I-494 mainline?

The I-494 Mainline project area is between Highway 169 to the MSP International Airport.

The project team initially identified 8 potential design alternatives. After evaluating design options for the I-494 mainline, the project team eliminated the following options because they did not pass the screening process:

No change to lanes

Every highway project explores a “No Build” option to make sure that the proposed options make improvements on the existing conditions. The “No Build” option would not add any additional lanes to the interstate. This option was eliminated for the following reasons:

  • Traffic: current and future transportation demands require additional infrastructure to better manage traffic operations
No change to the existing conditions.
General purpose lanes

This option would add 1 General Purpose Lane in each direction. This option was eliminated for the following reasons:

  • Inconsistent with regional plans: regional plans encourage the development of E-ZPass lanes throughout the Twin Cities Metro area
  • Traffic: provided less improvements to traffic operations in comparison to other designs
  • Transit: provided minimal benefits for transit users
One general purpose lane would be added to I-494 in each direction.
High occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes

This option would add 1 high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane in each direction. This option was eliminated for the following reasons:

  • Lane usage: additional lane will not be fully used
One high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane would be added to I-494 in each direction.
Buffer separated lanes

This option would convert I-494 to have buffer separated lanes. Two different design options with buffer separated lanes were considered. Both options were eliminated for the following reasons:

  • Lane usage: additional lane will not be fully utilized
  • Traffic: minimal improvements to traffic operations
  • Costs: high construction and maintenance costs with minimal improvements to traffic operations
  • Storm water mitigation: will require additional runoff capture structures
  • Right of way: may require additional land acquisition
  • Wetlands: May pose greater risks to wetlands
Buffer separated lanes - option 1

2 buffer separated lanes are separated from 2 general purpose lanes. Vehicles on the buffer separated lanes do not have access to entrance and exit ramps.

Two buffer separated lanes will be added to I-494 in each direction. Vehicles on the buffer separated lanes do not have access to entrance and exit ramps.
Buffer separated lanes - option 2

1 buffered lane is separated from 3 general purpose lanes. Vehicles on the buffer separated lane do not have access to entrance and exit ramps.

One buffer separated lane will be added to I-494 in each direction. Vehicles on the buffer separated lane do not have access to entrance and exit ramps.
Barrier separated lanes

This option would convert I-494 to have barrier separated lanes. Two different design options with buffer separated lanes were considered. Both options were eliminated for the following reasons:

  • Lane usage: additional lane will not be fully utilized
  • Traffic: minimal improvements to traffic operations
  • Costs: high construction and maintenance costs with minimal improvements to traffic operations
  • Storm water mitigation: will require additional runoff capture structures
  • Right of way: may require additional land acquisition
  • Wetlands: may pose greater risks to wetlands
Barrier separated lanes - option 1

2 barrier separated lanes are separated from 2 general purpose lanes. Vehicles on the barrier separated lanes do not have access to entrance and exit ramps.

Two barrier separated lanes will be added to I-494 in each direction. Vehicles on the barrier separated lanes do not have access to entrance and exit ramps.
Barrier separated lanes - option 2

1 barrier separated lane is separated from 3 general purpose lanes. Vehicles on the barrier separated lanes do not have access to entrance and exit ramps.

One barrier separated lane will be added to I-494 in each direction. Vehicles on the barrier separated lane do not have access to entrance and exit ramps.

What didn’t make the cut for the Portland Ave. interchange?

This project area includes changes to access at Nicollet Avenue, Portland Avenue, and 12th Avenue.

The team initially identified 5 potential interchange alternatives. Initial design options included a Texas U-Turn, Tight Diamond Interchange, Single Point Urban Interchange (SPUI), Roundabout Interchange, and Diverging Diamond Interchange. After evaluating interchange alternatives for Portland Avenue, the following options were eliminated because they did not pass the screening process:

Single point urban interchange (SPUI)

This option would allow opposing left turns to proceed simultaneously by compressing the two intersections of a diamond into one single intersection. This option was eliminated for the following reasons:

  • Pedestrian and bicycle mobility: Is not best suited to accommodate pedestrian and bicycle movements
  • Costs: most expensive design option due to longer and wider bridge requirements
  • Access: may be difficult to access local destinations in the area
Single Point Urban Interchange (SPUI) concept.
Texas u-turn

This option would allow cars traveling on one side of a one-way frontage road to U-turn onto the opposite frontage road. This option was eliminated for the following reasons:

  • Costs: high construction costs due to additional bridge and lane requirements
  • Traffic: would require frontage roads to become one-way direction
Texas U-turn interchange concept.
Diverging diamond interchange

This option would accommodate left-turning movements onto arterial roads and highways while eliminating the need for a left-turn signal phase at signalized ramp terminal intersections. This option was eliminated for the following reasons:

  • Traffic: minimal improvements to traffic operations, does not support local traffic patterns
  • Transit: least amount of travel time saved for transit routes
Diverging diamond interchange concept.
Roundabout interchange

This option would use a series of roundabouts to distribute traffic to connecting roadways and the highway. This option was eliminated for the following reasons:

  • Traffic: minimal improvements to traffic operations, does not support local traffic patterns
  • Design: local network does not accommodate enough spacing for design
Roundabout interchange concept.