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Author Topic: Future of I-35 in Duluth, MN  (Read 5571 times)

TheHighwayMan394

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Future of I-35 in Duluth, MN
« on: July 16, 2020, 11:19:01 PM »

MnDOT is seeking funding for a full study of I-35 in Duluth from Boundary Ave to MN 61. While a major rebuild on the west side took place a decade ago and the 535/53 interchange rebuild is slated to begin next year, focus is shifting to the remaining downtown portion from 535 to MN 61 as that portion reaches roughly 30 years of use. As the tourist numbers have exploded the fact that 35 cuts downtown off from the main tourist district in Canal Park has become a big headache for both vehicles and pedestrians, and having lived in the Twin Ports without a car, I can vouch for how much it sucks trying to walk from downtown to Canal. Some upgrades at the interchange with Lake Avenue this summer are meant to increase pedestrian friendliness, but the access problems remain. There are two bridges and a skyway across I-35, and the 5th Ave overpass is out of the way away from the Canal Park area.

One group that has gained some traction with local and state media wants to submit a proposal to eventually revert I-35 to a parkway in downtown Duluth (even referring to it as “Highway 61 Revisited” where it’ would become an extended MN 61) when current 35’s lifespan ends, and other MnDOT engineers have suggested in recent years that the route doesn’t necessarily have to remain a full freeway either.

We seem to be trending toward more freeway revoltage in urban cores.
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Bickendan

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Re: Future of I-35 in Duluth, MN
« Reply #1 on: July 18, 2020, 04:36:28 AM »

Kinda hate to say it, but as 35 doesn't extend past Duluth and never will, this proposal actually does make some sense. Anywhere east of MN 194 looks like a potential downgrade or removal candidate.
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Mdcastle

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Re: Future of I-35 in Duluth, MN
« Reply #2 on: July 18, 2020, 10:54:37 AM »

Downtown businesses are just pissed that vacationers are able to get to their destination without getting stuck in a horrific traffic jam and thus be tempted to stop and buy their overpriced food and drink. If there's an actual problem with a connection to the waterfront just build another skyway or land bridge or two so pedestrians don't have to cross a trunk highway to get there.
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Revive 755

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Re: Future of I-35 in Duluth, MN
« Reply #3 on: July 18, 2020, 11:31:30 AM »

The Star-Tribune has a rendering of a boulevard proposal, which appears to be missing the nearby railroad (tourist only, or does it still see some freight service?).
« Last Edit: July 18, 2020, 11:43:56 AM by Revive 755 »
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TheHighwayMan394

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Re: Future of I-35 in Duluth, MN
« Reply #4 on: July 18, 2020, 03:54:30 PM »

Downtown businesses are just pissed that vacationers are able to get to their destination without getting stuck in a horrific traffic jam and thus be tempted to stop and buy their overpriced food and drink. If there's an actual problem with a connection to the waterfront just build another skyway or land bridge or two so pedestrians don't have to cross a trunk highway to get there.

I've gotten the vibe downtown Duluth businesses' priority is more being there for locals rather than trying to draw in tourists. Not that they would complain, obviously. What this "Downtown Waterfront Council" is advocating is that downgrading 35 could have a benefit to local interests in creating a more accessible downtown to the neighborhoods southwest of downtown as well as a more accessible lakeshore which is the main selling point for the city in trying to get people to relocate. One of their arguments is despite Duluth's desperate attempts to lure more people into moving there that their population has remained flat compared to other comparable cities like Rochester and St. Cloud,  and one thing they point out is none of those cities have a freeway bisecting the heart of their commercial district. Now, needless to say Duluth has other more pressing problems that make it difficult to keep people around. But if Lake Superior is *the* selling point to get people to come and stay, it doesn't help having it be so inaccessible.
« Last Edit: July 18, 2020, 03:59:37 PM by TheHighwayMan394 »
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Rothman

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Re: Future of I-35 in Duluth, MN
« Reply #5 on: July 19, 2020, 11:08:52 AM »

Downtown businesses are just pissed that vacationers are able to get to their destination without getting stuck in a horrific traffic jam and thus be tempted to stop and buy their overpriced food and drink. If there's an actual problem with a connection to the waterfront just build another skyway or land bridge or two so pedestrians don't have to cross a trunk highway to get there.
^This.

What about access to the North Shore, which is the real tourist destination in the area rather than Duluth itself and Grandma's restaurants (which is really what Canal Park is, for the most part).  Downgrading I-35 would just create a mess for tourist traffic headed to the state parks.  So, I don't see claiming tourist traffic as an issue between downtown and Canal Park being very legitimate to downgrade I-35.

I used to live in Superior.  Although I recognize the pedestrian problem, I like the idea of extending the skyway system to Canal Park somehow.  It already goes to the Duluth Curling Club.

Yeah, but prioritizing downtown to Canal Park traffic over North Shore bound traffic seems ill-advised to me.
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JREwing78

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Re: Future of I-35 in Duluth, MN
« Reply #6 on: July 19, 2020, 04:15:59 PM »

Fixing I-35 through downtown Duluth would honestly be straightforward compared to punching a freeway (or even a parkway) through Duluth's north side. Congdon Park wouldn't be overly challenging, but Lakeside and Lester Park involves either a convoluted bypass or punching through neighborhoods. It may still be cheaper than the alternatives, however.

You're not going to punch a 3-4 mile tunnel through Lakeside or into Lake Superior. A causeway bypass into Lake Superior is also a non-starter - even if you could get folks to accept it, the weather would never make this feasible.

What's left is a northerly bypass of Duluth, which would run a minimum of 25 miles and involve a lot of property displacement. You also, for better or worse, cut off downtown Duluth from North Shore tourist traffic.

Whatever the solution, Duluth and MnDOT should be engaging in the discussion now. The North Shore traffic issue isn't going to go away, and the longer its put off, the more expensive the answer is going to be.
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mgk920

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Re: Future of I-35 in Duluth, MN
« Reply #7 on: July 20, 2020, 01:26:22 AM »

Fixing I-35 through downtown Duluth would honestly be straightforward compared to punching a freeway (or even a parkway) through Duluth's north side. Congdon Park wouldn't be overly challenging, but Lakeside and Lester Park involves either a convoluted bypass or punching through neighborhoods. It may still be cheaper than the alternatives, however.

You're not going to punch a 3-4 mile tunnel through Lakeside or into Lake Superior. A causeway bypass into Lake Superior is also a non-starter - even if you could get folks to accept it, the weather would never make this feasible.

What's left is a northerly bypass of Duluth, which would run a minimum of 25 miles and involve a lot of property displacement. You also, for better or worse, cut off downtown Duluth from North Shore tourist traffic.

Whatever the solution, Duluth and MnDOT should be engaging in the discussion now. The North Shore traffic issue isn't going to go away, and the longer its put off, the more expensive the answer is going to be.

One of the choices that was on the ballot when the city voted on how to do I-35 a few decades ago was to extend it all the way through the city to feed into the four lane US (now MN) 61.  The voters opted for what was built.  IMHO, the 'through the city' alternative should have been built.

BTW, How was access in the downtown area when what is now I-35 was a railroad yard?

Mike
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Stephane Dumas

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Re: Future of I-35 in Duluth, MN
« Reply #8 on: July 20, 2020, 11:32:57 AM »

One of the choices that was on the ballot when the city voted on how to do I-35 a few decades ago was to extend it all the way through the city to feed into the four lane US (now MN) 61.  The voters opted for what was built.  IMHO, the 'through the city' alternative should have been built.

BTW, How was access in the downtown area when what is now I-35 was a railroad yard?

Mike

I guess some of these voters might regret their decision today.
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Revive 755

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Re: Future of I-35 in Duluth, MN
« Reply #9 on: July 20, 2020, 12:39:05 PM »

BTW, How was access in the downtown area when what is now I-35 was a railroad yard?

Mike

Historic Aerials only appears to show one additional access point near 1st Avenue.
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TheHighwayMan394

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Re: Future of I-35 in Duluth, MN
« Reply #10 on: July 20, 2020, 08:48:37 PM »

One of the choices that was on the ballot when the city voted on how to do I-35 a few decades ago was to extend it all the way through the city to feed into the four lane US (now MN) 61.  The voters opted for what was built.  IMHO, the 'through the city' alternative should have been built.

BTW, How was access in the downtown area when what is now I-35 was a railroad yard?

Mike

I guess some of these voters might regret their decision today.

I doubt it, as it would have caused huge damage to the historic Lakeside neighborhood. Residents in Lakeside seem to think the current setup is still better than other options studied, which included making Superior Street and London Road (MN 61) into one-way pairs. There’s only one stoplight on the neighborhood portion of 61. I’ve seen photos suggesting the worse tourist choke is when the expressway ends outside Two Harbors.
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Henry

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Re: Future of I-35 in Duluth, MN
« Reply #11 on: July 22, 2020, 10:54:30 AM »

As I see it, they might get another St. Paul here, with a parkway disguised as an Interstate.
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TheHighwayMan394

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Re: Future of I-35 in Duluth, MN
« Reply #12 on: July 22, 2020, 05:58:06 PM »

As I see it, they might get another St. Paul here, with a parkway disguised as an Interstate.

That's sort of what exists now (especially east of Lake Avenue), with a speed limit of 50 between MN 194 and MN 61. However I would say the 21st Avenue East interchange should not only be kept, but upgraded; as the main access point to the city's two largest universities, it frequently backs up well down the ramp and is controlled by stop signs.
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quickshade

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Re: Future of I-35 in Duluth, MN
« Reply #13 on: July 22, 2020, 10:21:29 PM »


Not sure why this isn't an option, sink the road a bit, and build a huge bridge-park on an equal plane to everything else around there. Not sure how expensive it would be but  would solve the problem without a massive re-routing of the roadway or dealing with potential traffic issues from downsizing the roadway.
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DJ Particle

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Re: Future of I-35 in Duluth, MN
« Reply #14 on: July 23, 2020, 01:47:35 AM »

I say if they do decide to truncate I-35...just reroute the designation over current I-535.
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triplemultiplex

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Re: Future of I-35 in Duluth, MN
« Reply #15 on: July 24, 2020, 10:20:18 PM »

I-35 between downtown and Canal Park is already well positioned to simply cap it with another park-covered tunnel just like exists a little ways northeast.  Slap another one of those between 1st and 3rd Ave's W instead of that skywalk to the DECC and you're good.

Boulevarding would be WAY worse for pedestrians than the sketchy sidewalk situation existing at the single point interchange currently.

Further north, there's no way to make a proper connection between I-35 and the Two Harbors Expressway without doing some serious relocations the likes of which are not tolerable just to shave 8 minutes off a drive to the North Shore.  Congestion would have to be way worse than it is to get any momentum that direction.  We are stuck unless Duluth doubles its population in a decade.

MNDOT should also be seriously considering a bypass of Two Harbors like yesterday.  Before the right of way closes in too much.  Doesn't even need to be a freeway, but that slog of traffic lights blows every weekend.
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Plutonic Panda

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SEWIGuy

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Re: Future of I-35 in Duluth, MN
« Reply #17 on: January 11, 2022, 10:00:51 PM »

It’s not “anti-car.”  It’s anti-divided highways that create barriers that prevent cities from being what we want them to be.
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Revive 755

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Re: Future of I-35 in Duluth, MN
« Reply #18 on: January 11, 2022, 10:49:28 PM »

^ And the nearby railroad wouldn't be a barrier anyway?

If the article is not biased, then why is it calling the I-35 corridor infrastructure "about 14 lanes across"?

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TheHighwayMan394

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Re: Future of I-35 in Duluth, MN
« Reply #19 on: January 11, 2022, 10:52:24 PM »

If the article is not biased, then why is it calling the I-35 corridor infrastructure "about 14 lanes across"?

4 lanes of I-35 + 2 lanes of Michigan St + 4 lanes of Railroad St + 4 lanes of connection between 5th and Lake.
« Last Edit: January 11, 2022, 10:55:02 PM by TheHighwayMan394 »
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TheHighwayMan394

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Re: Future of I-35 in Duluth, MN
« Reply #20 on: January 11, 2022, 11:15:48 PM »

As someone who was a pedestrian extensively in Duluth in college, yes, there needs to be a better connection between Canal and downtown placed between 5th and Lake. This could probably be accomplished with a lot less money than a full cap, though. Duluth is starting a project this year to turn Harbor Drive into a pedestrian space on the south and east sides of the DECC. Pedestrian access to get between the lakewalk/lift bridge/Canal Park proper and the DECC/Bayfront is also pretty shitty, so if that could be beautified and improved it would help the pedestrian situation.
« Last Edit: January 11, 2022, 11:18:56 PM by TheHighwayMan394 »
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Rothman

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Re: Future of I-35 in Duluth, MN
« Reply #21 on: January 11, 2022, 11:23:30 PM »

Just take the Skyway past the Curling Club. :D
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TheHighwayMan394

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Re: Future of I-35 in Duluth, MN
« Reply #22 on: January 11, 2022, 11:42:00 PM »

Just take the Skyway past the Curling Club. :D

It could still be better, and more dedicated between downtown and Canal.
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Rothman

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Re: Future of I-35 in Duluth, MN
« Reply #23 on: January 12, 2022, 12:52:33 AM »

Just take the Skyway past the Curling Club. :D

It could still be better, and more dedicated between downtown and Canal.
Yeah, I meant that a little tongue-in-cheek.
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SEWIGuy

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Re: Future of I-35 in Duluth, MN
« Reply #24 on: January 12, 2022, 06:17:37 AM »

^ And the nearby railroad wouldn't be a barrier anyway?

If the article is not biased, then why is it calling the I-35 corridor infrastructure "about 14 lanes across"?




I should have said I don’t know about the particulars of Duluth.

I just don’t think being anti-freeway in urban areas means you are anti-car.
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