New research finds changes to I-35 interchange impacts more than just pedestrians

Published: Mar. 3, 2023 at 9:47 PM CST
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DULUTH, MN. -- It can be a time-consuming hassle to get from Downtown Duluth to Canal Park.

For people wishing to walk between the two areas, Interstate I-35 presents a considerable obstacle. There are few areas to cross the major traffic corridor.

“If we look at Lake Avenue and 5th Avenue West, they haven’t been pedestrian friendly,” said the President of Downtown Duluth, Kristi Stokes. “They have been a challenge for us as a community.”

Those I-35 interchanges are something the Duluth Waterfront Collective directed their attention to last year

With new ideas in mind, they turned to the UMD Bureau of Business and Economic Research, the Metropolitan Interstate Council, and MnDOT to study the economic effect of an I-35 conversion.

“They have seen tremendous reinvestment and investment along that corridor,” said Stokes. “I think there are a lot of opportunities.”

The groups researched how the project could impact the community and businesses here while looking at similar projects across the country that have already been completed.

“These were the five cities that we looked at,” said Monica Haynes, the Director of the Bureau of Business and Economic Research. “The Riverfront Parkway in Chattanooga, the Park East Freeway in Milwaukee, the I-195 Expressway in Rhode Island, the Inner Loop Expressway in Rochester, and the Robert Moses Parkways in Niagara Falls.”

They found that increased pedestrian access to businesses could produce an additional $74 million in spending and support 450 new jobs.

Stokes said that other communities that have done similar projects have seen reinvestment take place since the interstate developments occurred.

The study is playing an important role in developing the long-term design goals for the I-35 interchange.

“This is a bold, grand vision, and so this is something that is going to take time,” Stokes said. “It really takes the community to come together to discuss how to take the next steps.”

This research project was just the first of many that are planned.

They are hoping to conduct more community surveys to get a better look into what the interstate redesign would entail.