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Our Streets Minneapolis report highlights I-94's health, economic impacts on local communities

Our Streets Minneapolis advocating for I-94 boulevard
Our Streets Minneapolis advocating for I-94 boulevard 00:54

MINNEAPOLIS — As work continues on "Rethinking I-94" between downtown Minneapolis and the State Capitol in St. Paul, one group says turning it into a boulevard is the best idea. 

Our Streets Minneapolis has published a new report, filled with data about the impact Interstate 94 has had on communities in the Twin Cities and how their proposed boulevard could alleviate several issues. 

"There is no circumstance under which we believe that highway expansion will work," said José Antonio Zayas Cabán, Our Streets Minneapolis' executive director. "(Interstate) 94 removed a lot of opportunities for people to use a street grid to have many more options to turn off, and therefore people are sort of forced or encouraged to use the highway to make very short trips."

According to the Minnesota Department of Transportation, the project is about "preserving and repairing bridges, walls and pavement and enhancing mobility, safety, and connectivity."

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When it was built more than 60 years ago, I-94 split neighborhoods in half, forcing many families out of their homes.  

The report from Our Streets Minneapolis highlights many of the inequities created in the decades since.

"Highways continue to harm life expectancy at birth, asthma, hospitalization rates, neurodevelopmental issues related to noise pollution," Cabán said. "The poverty rate along the highway, property values, and the economies around the highway are much worse and other areas that don't have highways."  


Several ideas including the boulevard have been submitted to MnDOT for consideration, including adding dedicated bike lanes, expanding the interstate, and adding and expanding roads alongside it.

Below is MnDOT's statement on the project:

We appreciate the deep community interest and involvement as we work to plan the future of this vital corridor. MnDOT is considering a wide range of alternatives for the future of this corridor. The alternatives were developed in partnership with federal, state and local governments, as well as countless technical experts and feedback from the community. All of the alternatives are currently being evaluated using the same criteria, which were developed in coordination with stakeholders, partners and the public. In contrast to the original creation of Highway 94, MnDOT is committed to continuing with our community-based approach focused on reconnecting neighborhoods and ensuring community members have a meaningful voice in transportation decisions that affect their lives.

Cabán says bigger roads don't necessarily mean better.

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"If you get a bigger house, you put more stuff in it. If you make highways wider, people will take more trips. So those local trips will become more frequent, the traffic-related emissions will become higher, we will pollute our environment even further and traffic is going to be worse," Cabán said. "The issue here is not just transportation, it's race and class, and creating opportunities to level that playing field between those two communities that have been historically on opposite sides of the wealth-building pathway."

Our Streets Minneapolis' report projects up to 2,230 new housing units, 2,450 new jobs and a real estate market value of up to $470 million if a boulevard is built. 

"When you create a boulevard where there are other ways to move around like biking and using transit, and you also develop that area with housing and commerce, people will also choose to bike, bus or walk," he said. "This will be a generational opportunity to have a very serious impact on the lives of people who have been living by highways for 60 years now."

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