Study Report on Uncompleted Interstate Segments in the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area

This page lists excerpts from the "Study Report on Uncompleted Interstate Segments in the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area", a study ordered by the 1975 Minnesota Legislature that directed the Metropolitan Council, the Transportation Advisory Board, and the cities involved to review the then-uncompleted segments of Interstate Highway within the 7-county metro area and make recommendations on those segments.

You will notice several references to the Minnesota Highway Department (or MHD) below.  The Minnesota Highway Department was merged with other transportation-related state agencies in 1976 to become what is today's Minnesota Department of Transportation.

The Metropolitan Transit Commission (MTC), which provided transit services in the Twin Cities at the time, eventually morphed into today's Metro Transit.


Chapter 1:  Introduction

Authorization for the Study

This report is prepared in response to state law (Chapter 203, 1975 Session Laws) passed by the 1975 Minnesota Legislature which directs the Metropolitan Council with the Transportation Advisory Board and affected municipalities to study the uncompleted segments of the Interstate Highway System within the Metropolitan Area.  The law states that:



This study mandate is a part of legislation commonly referred to as the Gas Tax Law.  This law includes other provisions which affect highways and transit in general and Interstate highways in particular.  The Gas Tax Law modifies existing legislation by increasing the tax on gasoline from 7 to 9 per gallon.  Money is appropriated to the Metropolitan Area and outstate areas for transit.  Money also is appropriated to MHD to permit the completion of its 1975 fiscal year construction program.  In addition to these appropriations for transportation, construction of acquisition of land for a number of roadway segments is prohibited.  These segments are:

The prohibitions are not absolute, however, and certain transportation improvements would be allowed.  The latter include:

Other road construction would be allowed including the following:


Study Participants

The study has been conducted by two committees established by the Metropolitan Council and the Transportation Advisory Board (TAB).  The Minneapolis Area Committee has examined the routes in the western half of the Metropolitan Area.  The St. Paul Area Committee has examined the routes in the eastern half.  Each city affected by the uncompleted roadways has designated representatives to sit on the committees.  The Minneapolis Area Committee included representatives from Minneapolis, Golden Valley, Minnetonka, and St. Louis Park.  The St. Paul Area Committee had representatives from St. Paul, Eagan, Mendota Heights, Sunfish Lake, Apple Valley, Burnsville, Inver Grove Heights, and South St. Paul.  Apple Valley and Burnsville shared one representative as did Inver Grove Heights and South St. Paul.  In addition, each committee had three members from the Transportation Advisory Board and one member from the Metropolitan Council.  A Transportation Advisory Board member served as chairperson of each committee.

A number of agencies and units of government have supplied staff for the study.  The Metropolitan Council has provided staff to assist in the coordination and administration of the study as well as to assist in preparation of the report.  The Transportation Advisory Board, MHD, MTC, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Inter-County Council, Association of Metropolitan Municipalities, city staffs and others have supplied technical support.  The Inter-County Council and City of St. Paul have provided secretaries for the study.



The Interstate Study Committees were responsible for conducting the study within guidelines established by the Transportation Advisory Board and the Metropolitan Council.  The committees adopted procedures for administering the study, conducted meetings, reviewed staff reports, held a public forum, investigated issues, and prepared the draft report.

The Transportation Advisory Board prepared guidelines for the committees, monitored the progress of the committees, reviewed draft and final reports, and held the public hearing.  Since TAB members serve as chairmen and as committee members, the TAB also played a substantial role in conducting the study.

The Metropolitan Council adopted the guidelines that outlined the structure, process, and schedule for the study.  The Council will review and adopt the final report and submit it to the Legislature.


History of the National Interstate System

The Interstate system began at the federal level with a number of studies that were undertaken in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s.  A number of factors led to this investigation of a system of Interstate roadways.  Vehicle registrations were mounting.  The number of cars and trucks tripled from 1920 to 1930 (from 9 million to 27 million autos), and tripled again between 1933 and 1954.  As the number of vehicles increased, the number of vehicle miles traveled also increased.  Urban congestion was a growing problem as was the number of traffic deaths.  Many of the highways were becoming functionally obsolete as development and local land access hindered through traffic movements.  Also, traffic volume projections indicated continued increase in auto travel.  The benefits of a roadway system for economic and defense needs were pointed out.

Roughly one-fourth of the day-long (24 hour) travel on the freeways near the Downtown Area will take place during one hour in the morning and one in the evening - the usual rush hours.  The highway authorities determined, in accordance with standard practice, that the freeways should be designed to accommodate these peak loads and that critical overloads should be avoided during the times when the greatest number of citizens will desire to use the routes.

The first study was completed in 1939 and recommended a 26,700-mile system of urban and rural free roads.  A toll road system was rejected as not being cost effective.  In 1944 the National Interregional Highway Committee, appointed by President Roosevelt, recommended a 39,000-mile system.  The system included 5,000 miles of urban circumferential and distributing routes.  The committee's report was a key document in the development of the Interstate Highway System and contains many planning, location, and design guidelines that are relevant today.  A process to designate routes began, but there was little construction because of limited funds.  Congress passed the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956.  To ensure participation by the states, the federal share was set at 90%.  Additional mileage was added to enlarge the system to 41,000 miles.  Highway design standards were set which provided for complete control of access, two divided roadways, and a capacity for forecasted 1975 traffic volumes (later changed to capacity 20 years in the future).

Primary criteria for the system was that the system:

A map showing the general location of Interstate routes was prepared.  It was recognized, however, that the precise location of routes would have to be determined locally through further studies.

The Interstate System Within Minnesota and the Metropolitan Area

Within the state of Minnesota there are three major Interstate routes:

Two of these routes, I-35 and I-94, pass through, and intersect within, the Metropolitan Area.

The Interstate System was envisioned not only as cross country routes, but also as routes to improve movement within cities.  In the Metropolitan Area, the planning envisioned serving both central cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.  Thus, I-35 was split into two routes:  I-35W would serve Minneapolis and I-35E would serve St. Paul.  I-94 would travel east-west and would connect the two cities.  To improve traffic movement within the urbanized area, a beltway was planned to carry traffic on peripheral routes rather than concentrating it on the central links.  Additional routes were planned and were considered necessary to handle the high volumes of traffic of the more densely populated urban areas.

Through a cooperative effort involving the Bureau of Public Roads (predecessor to the Federal Highway Administration), MHD, the Metropolitan Planning Commission (the predecessor of the Metropolitan Council), counties and cities, a system of freeways and expressways within the Metropolitan Area was planned in the late 1950s and early 1960s.  Over the years, this highway system has been reduced in size.  The transportation plan for the region is now contained in the Metropolitan Development Guide whose preparation is the responsibility of the Metropolitan Council.  About 73 percent of the Interstate system has now been completed.  The planned system of Interstate highways with uncompleted segments is shown here.


Chapter 2:  Overview and Summary

Routes Studied

Of the seven uncompleted Interstate segments within the Metropolitan Area, the Interstate Study Committees studied five.  These are I-394, I-335, I-35E in St. Paul, I-35E in Dakota County, and I-494.  Two segments, I-94 through North Minneapolis and I-94 in Washington County, do not require additional study.  I-94 through North Minneapolis is now at the stage where a Final Environmental Impact Statement is being prepared and revisions made in the design layout.  I-94 in Washington County, at one time, was ready for contract letting, but the project was stopped by the Commissioner of Highways so that an Environmental Impact Statement could be prepared.  MHD established a study group consisting of representatives from the cities and various agencies affected by the Interstate segments.  The study group recently made recommendations following a 22-month study.

The responsibilities for studying the Interstate routes are divided between the two committees.  The Minneapolis Area Committee has studied I-394 and I-335.  The St. Paul Area Committee studied I-35E in St. Paul, I-35E in Dakota County, and I-494.


The Study Process

The Transportation Advisory Board and the Metropolitan Council prepared the guidelines indicating the direction and schedule for the study.  The guidelines structured the Committees' work and identified those items that should be considered.  Generally, the process for the study of uncompleted Interstate segments was based on review, identification of issues, investigation and analysis of issues and the adoption of recommendations, culminating in this draft report.  The guidelines provide for the following considerations:


Presentations Before the Interstate Study Committee

The Committees have received a considerable amount of information on the uncompleted Interstate segments and on the issues surrounding them.  Presentations have been made on the status and history of the projects, the alternatives considered and the problems which have developed.  Groups supporting or opposing construction gave presentations to the Committees.  Planners, engineers, and environmentalists have addressed the Committee in an effort to clarify or resolve issues.  Minnesota state legislators also appeared before the Committees and discussed the intent of the legislation directing the Interstate Study.

During the course of the study, the Metropolitan Council, MHD, FHWA, MTC, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, and the affected cities made statements on the goals, objectives, and concerns they had regarding the uncompleted Interstate segments.  Other presentations have dealt with general issues surrounding the planning process, more specifically population and traffic forecasts, the flexibility in use of Federal funds, and issues pertaining to routes such as noise or air quality problems.  A number of citizen's groups have made presentations before the Committee including RIP-35E, Drive 35E, the Bryn Mawr Neighborhood Association, and the Council on Urban Mobility.  A public forum was held on September 4, 1975.

A list of speakers and their topics can be found in the appendix.  Additional discussion of the statements can be found in the goals and objectives chapter.


Summary of Recommendations

The Interstate Study Committee adopted the recommendations on uncompleted Interstate segments on November 6, 1975.  All the resolutions are predicated on the completion of satisfactory Environmental Impact Statements.  In addition, although not specifically mentioned in the recommendations, the preferential treatment of transit contained in the Transportation Policy Plan of the Metropolitan Council is to be considered for each corridor.

The Interstate Study Committee makes the following recommendations:


Chapter 3:  Goals and Objectives

Statements of goals, objectives, and issues of concern were presented to the Interstate Study Committees on July 24, July 31, and August 7, 1975.  Agencies which made presentations include the Metropolitan Council, FHWA, MHD, MTC, and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.  The cities which made presentations included St. Louis Park, Sunfish Lake, Golden Valley, Eagan, Inver Grove Heights, Minneapolis, Burnsville, Apple Valley, Mendota Heights, South St. Paul, and St. Paul.  From the statements, the following goals, objectives, and issues of concern were identified and adopted for use as a guide in the study.

Goals, Objectives, and Issues of Concern

  1. Federal level (Federal Highway Administration)
  2. State level (Minnesota Highway Department)
  3. Metropolitan Level
  4. Local


Statement Summaries

The assembled goals, objectives, and issues of concern reflect the perspectives from the national, state, metropolitan, and community levels regarding completion of the Interstate system.


Statements by Cities Directly Affected by Completion of the Interstate System

The cities directly affected by completion of the Interstate system presented their concerns.  The concerns addressed the general issue of Interstate construction as well as issues dealing with particular routes.


Chapter 4:  Evaluation Criteria for Alternatives

On August 14, 1975, the Interstate Committees adopted criteria to use in their evaluation of alternatives.  The criteria were organized into three categories:  effectiveness factors, impact assessment, and design factors.  Effectiveness factors measure how well the improvement functions to move people.  Impact assessment considers the impact of the improvement on the environment.  Finally, design factors consider whether a proposed improvement meets accepted Federal and state highway design standards and what the implications of a proposed design are in terms of dollars.


  1. Effectiveness Factors
  2. Impact Assessment
  3. Design Factors


Chapter 5:  History, Description, and Current Status of Uncompleted Interstate Segments

The following discussion deals with the seven uncompleted Interstate projects in the Metropolitan Area including the five which have been studied by the Interstate Study Committees.  Each project is discussed briefly in terms of the project history, description, and current status.

(Webmaster's Note:  separate pages have been created for each of the seven projects, as linked below.)



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Page last modified 13 January, 2008