Planning the future of I-35 in Duluth

Published: Jun. 6, 2023 at 8:11 PM CDT
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DULUTH, MN. (Northern News Now) - A 20-year planning study revealed to the public could change the way people travel in Duluth and its surrounding communities.

Duluth-Superior Metropolitan Interstate Council (MIC) and the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) along with partners presented ideas to the public during an open house Tuesday. The concepts are a culmination of study sessions and discussions with stakeholders from the past year.

As part of the 20-year planning study on transportation in Duluth, consulting firm Bolton & Menk shared concepts that will improve infrastructure along the 14 mile stretch of I-35. The artery is not only beneficial to the city, but to the state and the national economy because of the goods that move in and out from the city.

The concepts include spot improvements in the Proctor area to help with overall function. Solutions also include improving the narrow shoulders and freight truck lanes on Thompson Hill as you enter and leave the city. Experts also examined bridges and turn lanes in the Spirit Valley area to help reduce crashes. But perhaps one of the most notable projects will be designing a functional downtown and Canal Park area.

Developers say all of these unique projects along I-35 will be included in the overall vision. “We are trying to strike that balance of the people wanting to walk and bike and freight and cars and events and the community really trying to find that sweep spot for how this can work for all users in the future,” said Angie Bersaw with Bolton & Menk.

During their study sessions of traffic flow in the past year, Bersaw says they have learned that on a normal day I-35 flows smoothly. However, when there are significant events in the urban area like a hockey game, Bentleyville or summer festival, it can disrupt the traffic patterns and influence port activity. Bersaw says the goal is to make traffic flow, connect and interact smoothly.

Rondi Watson with MIC agrees and says they recognize people travel differently.

“It does benefit our entire community to be thinking about everyone who uses the road and then making it feel safe,” said Watson.

Both Bersaw and Watson say public input is crucial to the planning process.

“Now is the time to influence that future, if you wait until we know what we’re building and that timeline, it’s very difficult to influence change at that point,” said Bersaw. “So having your voice heard now, during the planning, is what we’re looking for.”

People unable to attend the meeting will be able to review the information and share their feedback through an online survey here.

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