Twin Ports Interchange Construction Delayed One Year

$343 million project delayed because of contaminated materials found at construction site

DULUTH, Minn. – Construction on the Twin Ports Interchange, also known as the ‘Can of Worms,’ has been delayed a year because of unexpected problems.

The I-35 and Highway 53 Interchange Project is budgeted at $343 million, but the whole project is expected to cost millions more.

Construction was supposed to start this spring. It’s been pushed back largely because of costs related to contaminated materials found at the construction site.

The interchange is on an old industrial area near Duluth’s Lincoln Park neighborhood.

Because a lot of contaminated soil and water was found there, MnDOT officials say they need time to take a step back and determine how to meet their environmental commitments before they move forward with construction.

Patrick Huston, the assistant district engineer, tells us it was impossible for MnDOT to anticipate the total cost when they made an estimate years ago because they had not yet tested for contaminants.

“We knew there was going to be some contamination but it’s really hard to put a cost on that. So, several years later, after we were able to do a lot of engineering and we drilled a lot of holes in the ground, we’re learning how much this contamination costs. We couldn’t have predicted that without putting holes in the ground,” explained Huston.

Last fall, MnDOT identified a $100 million funding gap on the project. Because of that gap, part of the project, including the Highway 53 bridge and the Garfield Avenue interchange, were delayed indefinitely until funding is found.

MnDOT expects major construction on the Twin Ports Interchange to start in spring 2021.

Some minor, preliminary construction will happen there this fall, but that’s not expected to cause significant traffic delays.

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