Plans to Ease Bayfront Area Traffic and Parking Unveiled

Metropolitan Interstate Council holds meeting to release full plan, get public feedback.

DULUTH, Minn.- As summer inches closer, so do festivals and concerts–both at the DECC and at Bayfront Festival Park.

Those events are becoming more frequent, and that means growing parking concerns and traffic that backs up onto I-35.

But plans are moving forward to help change that, unveiled Wednesday by the Metropolitan Interstate Council, or MIC.

The Council is working with MNDOT, the City of Duluth and other organizations to develop a plan of short, medium, and long term ideas to make parking and traffic in that area less packed, and more safe.

Officials started examining the issue after the congestion that developed during the hugely popular Bentleyville this past year.

A lot of the problem, they said, stems form everyone wanting to park right by the DECC or by Bayfront, backing traffic up the 5th Avenue ramp onto the highway.

“You’re putting a lot of stress on the existing network,” said Ron Chicka, director of MIC. “And when these events all occur at one time, there have been safety issues since you’re bouncing traffic into I-35 that’s just stuck.”

Meanwhile, Chicka said, many don’t utilize the parking ramps downtown closest to 5th Avenue.

Short-term plans include partnering with the Park Duluth app to give motorists parking information about downtown ramps and lots before they drive to the Bayfront area.

MIC also wants to improve pedestrian walkways across the 5th Avenue bridge by the Depot with lighting and signs.

This way, parking away from all the hustle could be a little more convenient.

Chelly Townsend, Executive Director of the DECC, was at the meeting. Witnessing these debacles firsthand, she said she feels the plan is important.

“The traffic issues that we have here, and how it frustrates our customers and can actually make the area pretty unsafe,” Townsend said.

“We’re really confident that this is going to be a plan that works for the long run and that we all got the pieces and parts in it.”

Some of the more intensive, long-term plans include restructuring the 5th Avenue bridge, which is estimated to cost $37 million. MIC is also looking at how to expand Railroad Street, which they say is difficult with the train tracks running alongside.

The short-term plans could go into effect as soon as late this summer.

After the feedback they received from this meeting, Chicka said his team is going to look back at the flow of traffic, to have a better understanding before moving forward.

To view the complete plan, visit

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