The City of Plymouth has lobbied for a third lane along Interstate 494 for years, but lack of funding and its low priority on the state’s list has kept the project from happening. Now, MnDOT has come up with an alternative plan that could temporarily relive some congestion in the area.
In a recent meeting, MnDOT told city officials they are considering a “dynamic shoulder lane,” which would essentially create a third lane along 494 that would be open during peak traffic times. There would be no fee to use the lane.
Mayor Kelli Slavik says it’s not the best solution for the city, but believes it's the only option.
“We were really hoping for an additional general purpose lane on 494, but MN Dot says the funding for such a lane won’t be available for at least a decade, so at least this option is something,” she said.
The project could become part of a two-year plan for maintenance along 494, which is slated to start in 2014.
The so-called maintenance project includes re-paving the road, re-decking and widening three bridges, as well as adding noise walls at certain locations. The bridge work would take place at Schmidt Lake Road, the Canadian Pacific railroad tracks and County Road 47.
While the fix is not permanent, MnDOT believes it could ease traffic on the five-mile stretch of 494 between Highway 55 and East Fish Lake Road. MN Dot says they are attempting to come up with “more creative fixes” because of the lack of funding for road projects.
Slavik says she is working with Senator Bonoff, who offered to author a bill to secure funding for a general purpose lane on 494 through Plymouth, but Slavik says it’s a long shot.
“This temporary fix offered by MnDOT isn’t what we had hoped for, and we will still try to get more funding, but at this point, it doesn’t look good,” Slavik said.
If approved, the project will take two years to complete. During construction, there will be times 494 will be down to one lane, according to Slavik.
The project is still in its infant stages. The Met Council and MnDOT still need to approve the project. Community meetings about the project could be held at the end of the year.