Congestion relief: I-494 improvement project begins in Plymouth

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The Minnesota Department of Transportation started construction on a long sought-after improvement project on Interstate 494 in Plymouth, which is expected to ease heavy congestion after the three-year project is complete.

Among the improvements, MnDOT plans to add a third lane to both sides of a six-mile stretch of I-494 – the only stretch of the interstate without three lanes, according to MnDOT's website.

Although the project is expected to slow traffic and bring night and weekend lane closures, commuters and residents in the area are excited for the future.

“This is an opportunity to relieve congestion, improve public safety, decrease commute times and allow Plymouth businesses to better serve their customers,” the city’s mayor, Kelli Slavik, told the Star Tribune. “I expect that there will be frustration over the next three years as construction progresses, but the end result will be a benefit to not just Plymouth residents, but all drivers that have had to deal with the congestion of three lanes compressing down to two as they drive through Plymouth.”

Over 95,000 vehicles travel daily on this stretch of I-494 (see map). MnDOT expects it will rise to 132,000 vehicles by 2030.

MnDOT plans to repair and reconstruct the concrete pavement on I-494 between Interstate 394 and the Fish Lake Interchange (where three roads – Interstate 94, I-494 and Interstate 694 – meet).

After the interchange, I-494 narrows to two lanes for six miles. As part of this project, MnDOT plans to add a third lane in both directions between Highway 55 and East Fish Lake Road.

Also included in the project: Maintenance repairs on ramps to and from I-494, replacement bridges spanning I-494, and construction of storm ponds and noise barriers along the route, MnDOT says.

This $86 million project is 10 years in the making. MnDOT had expanded I-494 through Bloomington, Eden Prairie and Minnetonka, but when it came time to build a third lane on I-494 in Plymouth, funding ran out.

Earlier this year, MnDOT said it found money to pay for this project – identifying $50 million in savings from other construction projects, $25 million of which will go to help fund this new project, according to a news release.

Earlier this year, MnDOT unveiled plans for 308 road construction projects in 2014, totaling $1.1 billion – this I-494 project was not listed among them.

For a complete list of current construction projects around the state, click here.

Traffic impacts

MnDOT says this three-phase project, which is expected to be completed in November 2016, will impact traffic – but no complete road closures are expected.

From July 21 through November, night and weekend lane closures are expected, but not during the winter months.

In August and September, Schmidt Lake Road Bridge will be closed for about 21 days, and once the bridge reopens, the County Road 47 Bridge will close.

Temporary lane closures and traffic shifts are planned in 2015 and 2016, MnDOT says. For a complete list of expected traffic impacts, click here.

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