Residents, community leaders share feedback about I-35/I-90 interchange, neighboring corridors

Published 10:38 am Wednesday, April 17, 2024

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Residents and community leaders in Albert Lea got the opportunity Tuesday to share their input about key corridors surrounding the Interstate 35 and Interstate 90 interchange in an open house at City Hall with representatives from the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

The department is studying the area to determine how to best improve safety and address aging bridges and the overall travel experience for motorists.
MnDOT plans to replace the two I-90 bridges over I-35 and make some ramp improvements starting in 2030. The bridges were built in 1968.

Mike Dougherty, director of public engagement and communications for District 6 with MnDOT, said while there is not money currently in place to make other changes that address safety and operational issues in the corridor, the hope is that MnDOT can complete its study on the area so that when funding is available, it is prepared to apply for that money.

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Other areas being looked at are conflicts with traffic entering and exiting at the interchange and between U.S. Highway 65 and I-90; rollovers and crashes involving vehicles running off the road at the interchange loops; crashes on Main Street at the I-35 ramp intersections; truck acceleration on the I-35 northbound on-ramp from Main Street; blowing and drifting snow; and the condition of other bridges and drainage structures.

In addition to gathering input from the community Tuesday, MnDOT staff also had a pop-up feedback session at one of the truck stops in March to get input from another group of highway users.

Tory Thompson, MnDOT project manager, said some of the suggestions she heard Tuesday included making improvements in the interchange to make it more like the Highway 14 and I-35 interchange in Owatonna and having longer acceleration lanes for trucks and other motorists. Some were also concerned about traffic not slowing down and sliding into the intersection near where the ramps from I-35 come out onto Main Street.

People who attended the open house could make comments on post-it notes near areas of concern on the corridor. They were also asked to identify their most important considerations for I-35 and I-90, whether that be I-35/I-90 interchange safety, Highway 65 ramp safety, Main Street interchange safety, freight operations, blowing snow, traffic delays/congestion, signage or other concerns. Most had identified the I-35 and I-90 interchange safety as the most important.

Dougherty said if people were unable to attend the open house but still want to offer feedback, they should visit, where they can place comments at areas of concern on a map.

He encouraged people to give their feedback and said there had been good participation at the open house, including members of the Albert Lea City Council and Mayor Rich Murray.

MnDOT is developing multiple concepts from the feedback it receives, as well as the crash statistics and other data. The concepts will be presented in the summer, and in the fall MnDOT will determine the full extent of a future project. Preliminary design is slated to start in winter 2025.