Drivers Celebrate Completion of 169 & I-494 Project

Updated: 11/30/2012 11:18 AM KSTP.com By: Mark Saxenmeyer

Drivers are finally feeling relief from a major Twin Cities traffic headache. The reconstruction of the Highway 169 and Interstate 494 interchange is now complete.

It was one of the worst traffic bottlenecks in the metro -- an antiquated system with lights and signals that brought traffic to a virtual standstill.

What a difference two years and $180 million make. Started in November 2010, the project came in on-budget, and was finished on schedule.

According to Kevin Walker, public affairs coordinator for the Minnesota Department of Transportation, said, "Now it's an inter-regional corridor, which is important because --from here all the way here to Mankato --you can go without having to stop at a stop light, which is a huge feat."

Federal and state funding covered most of the cost but the cities that border the interchange--Edina, Bloomington and Eden Prairie--chipped in $8 million of that total.

"Our residents can expect to see some reduction in the amount of cut- through traffic that happens in our community," said Karl Keel, Bloomington's public works director.

The project reconstructed the interchange with six connections; it connected the north and south frontage roads under Highway 169; and it installed six roundabouts.

But not everyone is a fan.

John Seigwrth of Eden Prairie said, "We actually tried the roundabouts today and couldn't get on to 494 west. We couldn't figure out how to do that."

Others don't mind--and predict a much easier drive to work.

Another Eden Prairie resident, Linda Hallonquist, said, "So far the commute is faster because I'm able to use the side roads and the roundabouts and so, yeah, so far I think it's good."

Another expected perk of this project: significant regional economic benefits An estimated 50-thousand new jobs alone will be developed in Eden Prairie's Golden Triangle.

Keel explained, "I mean if you look at the amount of commercial development in the 494 corridor it rivals that of downtown Minneapolis. I mean it's significant."

An estimated 175,000 thousand vehicles will be driving through the interchange on a daily basis. All the operational pieces of the construction are complete. All that's left now to finish are landscaping, and signage work.

MnDOT says its next big construction project will begin in the spring of 2013. It's the 35-E corridor project, spanning from Maryland Avenue to Little Canada. A MnPASS lane will be added to the nine-mile stretch. It should be finished sometime in 2015.

Mark Saxenmeyer can be reached at msaxenmeyer@kstp.com