Despite a history of community pushback, the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) released proposed project options for the Highway 252/I-94 project, all of which either maintain the current highway and its ongoing harms, or expand the highway, increasing concerns of safety, traffic, air pollution, environmental effects, and equity.
Years ago, MnDOT first proposed expanding I-94 and converting 252 into a new freeway. MnDOT’s proposal would demolish homes, significantly worsen pollution in communities of color, and further separate Brooklyn Center and North Minneapolis from the Mississippi River. As a result, strong community pushback forced them to reset the project and undergo an environmental impact statement. Unfortunately, MnDOT has returned with the same proposal to expand these two highways through marginalized communities.
Proposed Project Options
For Highway 252 in Brooklyn Center and Brooklyn Park, MnDOT is proposing 4 options:
- Maintain a 6-lane road (no-build, which MnDOT is required to include)
- Build a new 4-lane freeway with bus-only shoulders
- Build a new 6-lane freeway with two managed lanes
- Build a new 6-lane freeway with bus-only shoulders
For I-94 through North Minneapolis, MnDOT is proposing 5 options:
- Maintain the existing configuration (no-build, which MnDOT is required to include)
- Convert One Southbound I-94 Lane to EZ Pass lane from I-694 to downtown Minneapolis
- Convert One Northbound I-94 Lane and One Southbound I-94 Lane to EZ Pass lanes from I-694 to North Minneapolis
- Expand I-94 with an additional southbound EZ pass lane from I-694 to Dowling Avenue and convert one southbound lane to an EZ pass lane from Dowling Avenue to downtown Minneapolis
- Expand I-94 with an additional northbound EZ pass lane and an additional southbound EZ pass lane from I-694 to Dowling Avenue (two added lanes total) and convert one northbound lane and one southbound lane from Dowling Avenue to downtown Minneapolis to EZ pass lanes.
MnDOT Report Says Project Will Harm Marginalized Communities
MnDOT's own Equity and Health Assessment for the impacted North Minneapolis, Brooklyn Center, and Brooklyn Park communities shows how the neighborhoods within the project area, the majority of which are communities of color, already suffer from the highway’s pollution and health impacts. According to the report, “Communities along the Highway 252/I-94 corridor experience more negative health outcomes compared to the county and/or region. There are also significant health disparities within the corridor based on race/ethnicity, income, and location.”
The report says that the majority non-white and lower-income neighborhoods experience a higher rate of chronic disease, and are least likely to benefit from the highway. This includes some of the highest rates of childhood asthma in Minnesota. From the report: “The Hwy 252/I-94 corridor has a high concentration of households without a personal motor vehicle. White workers are more likely to drive alone to work and have shorter commutes than Black and Hispanic/Latino workers.” The report also states that Hwy 252 and I-94 are a barrier and limit non-driving access to jobs, healthy food options, and green space.
MnDOT has not prioritized community needs or responded to their feedback. Instead of addressing these concerns and creating opportunities for the community to imagine an alternative to expanding the highway and making it easier to access daily needs without a car, MnDOT’s proposal would significantly worsen pollution in marginalized communities. According to MnDOT’s estimates, a new Highway-252 freeway would double traffic in Brooklyn Center from 60,000 vehicles per day to 120,000 vehicles per day.
Safer for who?
How is MnDOT justifying the expansion? MnDOT claims that it will reduce congestion and improve safety. However, a vast amount of data shows that expansion only makes traffic congestion worse. Additionally, higher travel speeds will increase the risk of deadly crashes.
Lastly, considering those who will be most impacted, you have to ask—safer for who? It certainly won’t be safer for those who live near the project and will be forced to breathe the highway’s pollution. This project has always been about expanding the highway to increase capacity for freight and exurban commuters at the cost of the marginalized communities who live near the highway.
Non-highway project options advance economic opportunity
A recent report by the University of Minnesota Duluth highlighted the significant benefits of highway removal here in Minnesota. Adding non-highway project options for the I-94/252 corridor would alleviate the serious ongoing health impacts, provide improved multimodal transportation options that better serve the local population, and create opportunities for much-needed housing, parks, and economic development. MnDOT should add project options that allow the community to consider such solutions.
You can comment on the proposed options using MnDOT's comment form or by sending an email to [email protected]. (It is worth noting that, unlike other MnDOT project proposals with detailed explanations of project options and detailed questions, MnDOT is providing a 326-page .pdf for the community to review with a generic contact form.)
You can reach out to the project contact, Ricardo Lopez, at (612) 441-1928.
You can use the pre-written email below to contact representatives of MnDOT as well as decision-makers in Minneapolis, Brooklyn Center, and Brooklyn Park.
Tuesday, April 18
Thursday, April 27