Rebuilding Minnesota: Lowry Tunnel Project

May 18, 2017 09:17 AM

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It's the biggest bottleneck in the state and a huge overhaul will soon make your commute even worse. We wanted to ask every question we could about the Lowry Hill Tunnel project. To dig deeper, KSTP’s Josh Rosenthal:

  • Went up in Chopper 5 with engineers
  • Questioned the commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Transportation
  • Tracked down the original designer
  • Went deep inside the tunnel to show you what's being done

This in-depth report was originally broadcast on 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS Wednesday, May 17 at 10 p.m.

About the Project

Motorists traveling along Interstate 94 through Brooklyn Center and Minneapolis have been dealing with lane restrictions and ramp closures for weeks. The massive project, which includes plans to repair 50 bridges and resurface lanes on I-94, continues until this fall.

FOLLOW updates on the project here.

Lately, the biggest traffic hassles have been along Interstate 394. Eastbound drivers have been forced out of the carpool lanes/reversible lanes from Highway 100 to I-94, while westbound traffic travels in them. Crews are working on the I-94 bridges that carry traffic to I-394. The restrictions will stay in place until mid-June.

Meanwhile, the lane closures that drivers are seeing in both directions of I-94 between Highway 252 and I-394 will be in place through this fall. Highway 252 southbound at I-94 eastbound in Brooklyn Center remains closed until the middle of July, along with the ramps to I-694 westbound and from I-694 westbound to I-94 eastbound.

The worst is yet to come this summer, as work on the Lowry Hill Tunnel kicks off in late June. One side of the tunnel will shut down completely, while east and westbound traffic on I-94 is shifted to the other side. The ramp from I-35W northbound to I-94 westbound near downtown Minneapolis will close for safety reasons during this portion of the project. This configuration will stay in place into September.

According to the Minnesota Department of Transportation, one side of I-94 will be closed for four weekends coming up in August. 

Learn more about the project here.

The Tunnel Through History

"The infamous Minneapolis bottleneck is breaking up," is how a KSTP story from 1971 on the Lowry Tunnel project starts off. Reporter Marilou Thibault details plans for the ambitious quarter-mile tunnel, which was scheduled to be completed just months after this story aired.

WATCH that report here.

Reporter Roger Huff explains why the Lowry Hill Tunnel grand opening was delayed more than a few times. Also included in this story – a look at safety equipment from the early 1970s, including the 16 toll free phones placed throughout the tunnel.

WATCH that report here.

While this story from the early 1970s focuses more on the Franklin Avenue Bridge than the Lowry Hill Tunnel, reporter Dave Lehman includes footage from the tunnel's grand opening, which featured quite a bit less fanfare than you may expect.

WATCH that report here.

View photos of the Lowry Hill Tunnel and the surrounding area through history via the photo gallery below.


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