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MnDOT prepares for major update on I-494 in south metro area

BLOOMINGTON — The Minnesota Department of Transportation is prepping for the Twin Cities metro area’s next major freeway upgrade: Interstate 494 through Eden Prairie, Bloomington and Richfield.

The project got a big boost July 1 when the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded MnDOT a $60 million grant to improve traffic flow between Highway 169 and Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, the Star Tribune reported.

“It will help make I-494 safer, less congested, last longer and provide new and improved ways for walkers and bicyclists to cross the freeway,” MnDOT spokesman David Aeikens said.

The grant will cover part of the $304 million MnDOT will spend to build a MnPass carpool lane in both directions between Highway 100 and I-35W. And it will offset the cost of rebuilding the interchange at I-35W and I-494, a major bottleneck.

The “Bloomington Strip” is a key route for commuters and for 34,000 drivers from outside the metro area who use it daily to get to places like the airport and Mall of America. The project “will be a benefit to the whole state and upper Midwest,” said Steve Peterson, manager of highway planning for the Metropolitan Council. “It will be great for the economy and travelers.”

The project is expected to start in 2023 and wrap up by the end of the 2026 construction season.

The announcement comes as a major reconstruction of one of the state’s busiest freeway stretches, Interstate 35W in south Minneapolis, approaches completion Sept. 10.