Project Managers Lay Out Next Steps for Massive Twin Ports Interchange Reconstruction

The Biggest Change Impacting Drivers Will Begin October 1, 2021

DULUTH, Minn. – It’s a massive overhaul worth $270 million.

Chances are if you’ve driven through Duluth on I-35, you’ve experienced the current headache that is the Twin Ports Interchange reconstruction. What’s chaos now will soon be easier to navigate in the fall and winter months.

“The temporary road that we will build is part of the next stage will be to get southbound traffic flowing more easily,” said Pete Marthaler, construction manager of major projects for MnDOT.

It’s a can of worms that looks even more confusing from a birds-eye view.

“It may feel a bit unusual to have freeway traffic on an urban setting, but we’ll have barriers on one side,” said Marthaler.

Right now, crews are working around the clock to construct temporary paving for Lower Michigan Street.

Starting October 1, project leaders say traffic will shift for I-35 southbound to Lower Michigan Street. For northbound traffic, a new route will take drivers to an I-35 southbound roadway.

“We’ll have a speed limit down here. The first time you drive through be aware, stay off your phone,” said Marthaler.

While it’ll seem confusing at first, this temporary roadway will be in place for many months ahead, as the overhead ramps and bridges undergo demolition.

“We’re recycling all of the concrete, rebar, and steel,” said Marthaler.

The project is currently on schedule for completion in the summer of 2024. MnDOT also says the construction is within the $270 million budget.

“We will not have blind merges after this project is over,” said Marthaler.

Safety improvements will come with a new look for the Twin Ports Interchange. Instead of the bridge style of the freeway being used now, the roadway will be directly constructed on the ground.

“It’ll be between retaining walls, so because we have ramps coming at certain elevations, that road needs to be elevated,” said Marthaler. “Even though it’s more expensive to build, the long-term cost to maintain and rebuild compared to a deck is much more cost-effective.”

MnDOT says the new style will reduce the risk of accidents in the winter, eliminating bridges that often freeze over quicker in the winter months. Blind merges will also be a thing of the past.

“Every movement, both northbound 35, 535 up the hill, and southbound 35 up the hill will have their own lane for a period of time to allow for them to have an orderly merge,” said Marthaler.

The project also has its own water treatment facility. Currently, crews are working to combine Miller Creek with Coffee Creek by constructing a new box culvert big enough to send debris the size of trees flowing through.

“This structure in itself is about $27 million, not an inexpensive decision,” said Marthaler. “We’re always trying to be good stewards of the taxpayer dollars.”

A virtual public meeting on the project is happening Monday at 12:15 p.m. Click here for a link to register.

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