Interstate 35E / 35W Minnesota

Routing

Interstate 35 splits into Interstates 35E and 35W to serve St. Paul (east) and Minneapolis (west). The two split at Burnsville in the south suburbs, with I-35W leading north to Bloomington and Richfield and I-35E angling northeast through Apple Valley, Eagan and Mendota Heights.

I-35W includes a High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lane in both directions from the split with I-35E northward to the interchange with Minnesota 65 and Interstate 94 at Downtown Minneapolis. The freeway sees two east-west segments, one along side Minnesota 62 (Crosstown Highway) and another parallel to I-94 on the south side of the Minneapolis central business district.

Beyond the separation with I-94, Interstate 35W branches northeasterly, first crossing the Mississippi River on the St. Anthony Falls Bridge and then turning east to Roseville and the west end of Minnesota 36, a freeway extending east to Maplewood. North from there, I-35W straddles the New Brighton and Arden Hills city line to Mounds View and Shoreview. U.S. 10 briefly ties into the freeway along this stretch.

I-35W curves easterly again at Blaine to Lino Lakes. The freeway traverses an area of wetlands from Rice Lake Chain of Lakes Regional Park Preserve through to Peltier and Rondeau Lakes to recombine with Interstate 35E at a wye interchange in south Columbus.

Interstate 35E meanwhile continues the exit numbering system of I-35 through the St. Paul area. The freeway winds northward through Lilydale and across the Mississippi River to enter south Saint Paul at the Crosby Nature Area. An ess curve takes the freeway eastward onto a parkway section ahead of Downtown. The portion of I-35E between MN 5 and I-94 includes a truck prohibition (over 9,000 pounds) due to the parkway status of the route.

Once in Downtown St. Paul, Interstate 35E briefly commingles with Interstate 94 & U.S. 12-52 before again curving northward to Maplewood. A due north trajectory takes the route to Little Canada and a dog leg along side Interstate 694 to Vadnais Heights.

The remainder of I-35E travels northward to White Bear Lake, White Bear Township, North Oaks and Lino Lakes. A rural end point lies north of Centerville, with I-35W merging into I-35E from the left.

Collapse of Interstate 35W Mississippi River Bridge

The former northbound view of Interstate 35W across the former Mississippi River bridge. Photo taken 04/23/07.

The Interstate 35W bridge over the Mississippi River collapsed during the peak traffic hours of August 1, 2007, near Downtown Minneapolis. Without any notice, the deck truss bridge (built in 1964, opened in 1967, 1907 feet long, 14 spans) plummeted into the waters of the Mississippi River some 64 feet below, sending drivers and their vehicles into the river in an instant.1 A total of 111 vehicles were on the portion of bridge that collapsed; 13 people died and 145 people were injured in the tragedy. Inadequate load capacity of the gusset plates (support elements along the under side of the bridge) failed, causing the bridge collapse to occur. An in depth report from the NTSB on the event is available here.

A $15-million contract to remove the bridge debris was awarded to Carl Bolander & Sons Co. on August 8, 2007. Crews used three cranes to lift the bridge deck segments for their move to a staging area for analysis by NTSB officials.

During this period without the crossing, commuters were directed on Interstate 94 and Minnesota 280 to circumvent the bridge area of Interstate 35W. MnDOT blocked Minnesota 280's intersections with County Road B, Broadway Street N.E., Walnut Street and Roselawn Avenue in an effort to temporarily upgrade all of Minnesota 280 into a full freeway (Minnesota 280 existed previously as a freeway halfway between Interstates 94 and 35W).

The replacement span opened well ahead of schedule on September 18, 2008 and carries ten overall lanes of traffic. Named the St. Anthony Falls Bridge, the span is 189 feet wide, 76 feet wider than the original span, and includes both full inside and outside shoulders.

Parallel/Historic U.S. Routes

Interstate 35W parallels historic U.S. 65 north from Burnsville to Downtown Minneapolis and old U.S. 8 from Minneapolis north to Columbus. Interstate 35E combines with U.S. 10 from Downtown St. Paul to Interstate 694 while paralleling U.S. 61 to the west from St. Paul north to Columbus.

Planned Improvements

Major reconstruction underway between spring 2013 and spring 2016 involves upgrading Interstate 35E between University Avenue (Exit 107C) in St. Paul and Little Canada Road (Exit 113) in Little Canada. Work involves expanding the freeway to eight overall lanes, with three general purpose lanes and a MnPass (HOT) lane in each direction. Construction replaces the bridges for I-35E over Pennsylvania Avenue, the Soo Line Railroad and Cayuga Street as part of a relocation of the freeway several hundred feet east. Work also includes removing the interchange with Pennsylvania Avenue and replacing it with a new folded-diamond interchange at Cayuga Street.3

Further north through the I-35E project area, the overpass for Maryland Avenue at Exit 109 was replaced during summer 2012. New bridges were constructed over the freeway at Arlington Avenue, Wheelock Parkway and Larpenteur Avenue (Exit 110A). The spans for I-35E above Roselawn Avenue and County Road B were also replaced. The full cloverleaf interchange at Minnesota 36 will receive certain modifications but otherwise remain the same. The I-35E overpasses above MN 36 however will be replaced. An unbonded concrete overlay was used for the new surface throughout the project area.3

The MnPASS lanes on I-35E between St. Paul and Little Canada commenced operations on November 30, 2015. The HOT lanes use the innermost lane of each carriageway.5

History

Interstate 35E was the last Minneapolis-St. Paul area Interstate to be completed. Delays due to litigation and compromise pushed the final four mile segment of I-35E back to an opening on October 15, 1990, 19 years after work started. This stretch through the West Seventh area runs northeast from south St. Paul to Interstate 94 in Downtown.

I-35E through south St. Paul was first envisioned in 1920 and planned more formerly as a six-lane freeway known as the Pleasant Avenue corridor in 1955. Initial work on the route was halted in 1972, after only a year of progress. During that time, area residents formed a citizens group against the highway known as RIP-35E, for "Residents In Protest", complete with a tombstone symbol for the road. Their efforts led to political action at both city and state levels, resulting in an extensive reevaluation of the freeway plans.

A plan to construct a parkway in place of a high-speed freeway was nearly reached, when labor unions gave their input and swayed the opinions of public officials. The prior plan did not include a direct connection with I-94, but the new plan did. This resulted in a law suit filed by RIP-35E in March 1983 over the connection issue, which the group contended was sufficient using city streets to continue northward along I-35E beyond Downtown. A federal judge disagreed and ruled against RIP on February 9, 1984, allowing for the direction connection.

Some work resumed along the parkway section of I-35E in 1983 due to an out-of-court agreement. The end result of the RIP-35E group and other compromises is a four-lane parkway with a restriction against commercial trucks and a low 45 Mile Per Hour speed limit. Additionally median trees, shrubs and decorative lighting and fencing were incorporated into the landscaping and design of the roadway. Total cost of the parkway section of I-35E between the Mississippi River and I-94 was $68 million.2

Completion dates per Minnesota Official Highway Maps:

Interstate 35W

  • 1961 - I-35W was open from a point north of Minnesota 13 at Burnsville to the Lyndale Connector (then U.S. 65).
  • 1965 - I-35W under construction southward from MN 13 to I-35 at Burnsville and northward from the Lyndale Connector to Lake Street.
  • 1968 - open from Burnsville (I-35) north to I-94 and Downtown Minneapolis and from Minnesota 208 (Exit 23A) north to County Road H (Exit 28C) at Mounds View.
  • Fall 1968 - I-35W extended north from Mounds View to Lake Drive (then U.S. 8) at Lino Lakes. I-35E and I-94 side by side section through Downtown Minneapolis also completed.
  • 1969 - Mississippi River Bridge north of Downtown Minneapolis.
  • 1970 - Interstate 35W complete between Lake Drive in Lino Lakes to I-35 at Columbus.
  • 1973 - I-35W extended south from the Mississippi River Bridge to I-94 and north to Hennepin Avenue (Exit 19). The north section of I-35W opened west to New Brighton Boulevard (then U.S. 8) and cosigned as Minnesota 36.
  • 1976 - Interstate 35W completed overall with the section between Hennepin Avenue and New Brighton Boulevard opened. The interchange along this segment with I-335 dropped as the route was canceled.

Interstate 35E

  • By 1964 - the first stretch of I-35E is open from Maryland Avenue north to I-694 west at Little Canada.
  • 1965 - I-35E is under construction from MN 110 to MN 5 and from Maryland Avenue south to Downtown St. Paul and from the Lino Lakes south city northward.
  • 1968 - open from Interstate 494 at Mendota Heights to Minnesota 5 (7th Street) in south St. Paul and between Downtown St. Paul (I-94) to Interstate 695 at Little Canada
  • 1971 - I-35E north from I-694 and Vadnais Heights to I-35W at Columbus.
  • By 1983 Interstate 35E was open from Burnsville north to Minnesota 77 at Eagan, with the portion north from there to Minnesota 110 at Mendota Heights under construction.

History of Split Routes

In their guidelines of signing Interstates, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) mandated that all suffixed Interstate highways be removed from the Interstate system in the late 1960s and 1970s. This resulted in many changes to the system, including:

  • Interstate 5W to I-505 and I-580 (Oakland to south of Tracy) in California
  • Interstate 15E to I-215 in California (former U.S. 395)
  • Interstate 15W to the Western Interstate 86 in Idaho
  • Interstate 35 to I-135 in Kansas
  • Interstate 70N to I-70 and Interstate 70S to I-270 in Maryland
  • Interstate 75E to I-75 in the Tampa Bay Area (original I-75 was renumbered I-275)
  • Interstate 80N to I-680 in Iowa
  • Interstate 80N to the Western I-84 in Oregon, Idaho, and Utah
  • Interstate 80S to I-76 in Colorado
  • Interstate 80S to I-76 in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey
  • Interstate 81E to I-380 in Pennsylvania

Most of these conversions were completed during the 1960s and 1970s. The Western Interstate 84 was among the last, as it was converted by 1980. However, there were two exceptions remaining in the system: Interstate 35 splits twice into Interstate 35E and Interstate 35W, once in the Dallas/Fort Worth metro area and again in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area. The reason these split routes still remain is that neither city wanted to relinquish the routing of Interstate 35. AASHTO gave in to these demands, and the split suffixed routing remains in both Texas and Minnesota.

A new set of split routes appeared in 2013 when Interstates 69C and 69E were established in South Texas by an act of Congress. The circumvented the authority of AASHTO and the mandate that no new suffixed routes be designated. Interstate 69W was established a year later.

Southern Terminus - Interstate 35 - Burnsville, Minnesota
Perspective from Interstate 35W south
A half diamond interchange (Exit 1) joins Interstate 35W with County Road 42 by Burnsville Center mall just north of the merge with Interstate 35E. Photo taken 06/14/15.
The southbound lanes of Interstate 35E pass over Interstate 35W. An interchange sequence sign outlines the the ensuing interchanges of I-35 south through Lakeville and Albert Lea, the junction with Interstate 90. Photo taken 06/14/15.
Interstate 35W crosses over Southcross Drive just ahead of the merge with the I-35E on-ramp. An end sign marks the transitions back into Interstate 35 south. Photo taken 06/14/15.
Interstate 35 advances southward with three lanes toward Exit 86 with County Road 46 beyond the lane drop at the Crystal Lake Road half diamond interchange. Photo taken 06/14/15.
Historical Perspective from Interstate 35W south
Looking at the departure of Exit 1 from Interstate 35W south for County Road 42 from before expansion of the freeway to include left-hand shoulders and a two-lane off-ramp for Crystal Lake Road. Photo taken 04/21/07.
Perspective from Interstate 35E south
Southbound Interstate 35E approaches Exit 88B, Junction Dakota County 42, one mile. This is the last exit before I-35E merges with Interstate 35W in Burnsville. Photo taken by Chris Lokken (07/13/06).
This interchange sequence sign precedes Exit 88B by one half mile. CR 46 lies two miles further along the resumption of Interstate 35 south. There is no access otherwise to I-35W north through Burnsville from I-35E south. County Road 42 however connects the two via adjacent interchanges. Photo taken by Chris Lokken (07/13/06).
Exit 88B departs Interstate 35E south for County Road 42 west to Burnsville Center mall and east to 150th Street through Apple Valley. Motorists continuing south default onto I-35 ahead. Photo taken 06/15/15.
Entering the wye interchange, Interstate 35E sweeps westward to merge onto I-35W. Southcross Drive passes below the interchange from adjacent suburban areas. Photo taken 06/15/15.
Drivers taking the two-lane ramp from I-35E onto I-35W quickly face a lane drop at the 150th Street overpass. Photo taken 06/15/15.
A formal end sign references the transition back into Interstate 35. I-35 splits again 931 miles to the south at Denton, Texas. Photo taken 06/15/15.
Perspective from Interstate 35 north
This mileage sign, located 21 miles south of the Interstates 35E-W separation prior to Exit 69 (Minnesota 19 near Northfield), is the first mention of the pending Interstate 35 split. Photo taken by Jeff Morrison (03/19/07).
Three lanes of Interstate 35 north continue beyond Exit 87 for Crystal Lake Road to the wye interchange (Exit 88A) and split into Interstates 35E-W. I-35E maintains the mileage and exit numbering of mainline I-35, while I-35W utilizes a set of distinct mileposts and exit numbers. Photo taken 06/14/15.
Lane control signals and a variable toll rate sign appear as Interstate 35 passes below Crystal Lake Road. The forthcoming split doubles as the beginning of the tolled MnPASS lanes for I-35W. The HOT lane runs north along the innermost lane of I-35W through to Downtown Minneapolis. Photo taken 06/14/15.
Interstate 35E veers northeast to Apple Valley, Eagan and Mendota Heights while I-35W maintains a northward heading through Burnsville, Bloomington and Richfield. Photo taken 06/14/15.
Travelers separate into Interstate 35W north to Minneapolis and Interstate 35E northeast to Saint Paul. Photo taken 06/14/15.
Just beyond the separation, the MnPASS lane begins on I-35W while Exit 88B departs from I-35E immediately for County Road 42 to south Burnsville and Burnsville Center mall. Photo taken 06/14/15.
Historical Perspective from Interstate 35 north
This initial set of overheads for Interstates 35E-W was replaced by 2011, with the Exit 88A tab shifted to the left for I-35W north. A bus-only ramp ties into the freeway northbound to the right now. Photo taken 04/20/07.
This set of signs at Exit 87 was vastly carbon copied by 2011, but with exit tabs shifted to the left and right respectively and lighting fixtures removed. Photo taken 04/21/07.
Former I-35E and I-35W diagrammatic sign posted just north of the Crystal Lake Road overpass. Photo taken 04/21/07.
These signs at the wye interchange (Exit 88A) where Interstates 35E/W partition were replaced. Lighting fixtures were also removed. Photo taken by Jeff Morrison (03/19/07).
Perspective from Interstate 35E north
The first reassurance marker for Interstate 35E stands between the Portland Avenue and McAndrews Road overpasses ahead of Exit 90 for Apple Valley. Photo taken 04/21/07.
Perspective from Interstate 35W north
The first shield for Interstate 35W appears at the McAndrews Road over crossing, north of the half diamond interchange with County Road 42. Photo taken 06/14/15.
Historical Perspective from Interstate 35W north
This state-named shield for I-35W was the first. It was replaced when the freeway was expanded to six overall lanes with the addition of the MnPASS lanes between Burnsville and Minneapolis. Photo taken 04/21/07.
Northern Terminus - Interstate 35 - Columbus, Minnesota
Perspective from Interstate 35E north
The last northbound shield for Interstate 35E appears along a rural stretch leading away from Centerville. Photo taken 06/15/15.
Similar to the north approach of I-35W, an end sign advises motorists of the impending transition of Interstate 35E to I-35 north. Photo taken 06/15/15.
Just north of the Lino Lakes city line, Interstate 35E enters the wye interchange with Interstate 35W. Photo taken 06/15/15.
Perspective from Interstate 35W north
Beyond the on-ramp from Anoka County 23, the final reassurance shield for Interstate 35W stands as the freeway travels north of Peltier Lake. Photo taken 06/14/15.
An end sign precedes the merge of Interstate 35W with I-35E by one mile. The two freeways combine in southeast Columbus along an otherwise rural stretch with a 70 mile per hour speed limit. Photo taken 06/14/15.
West Freeway Drive (CR 21) crosses I-35W just ahead of the wye interchange with I-35E. The left-hand merge sees a lane drop in one mile preceding a truck weigh station. Photo taken 06/14/15.
The carriageways of Interstate 35E separate to accommodate the sweeping on-ramp of I-35W north. Duluth lies 129 miles to the north via I-35. Photo taken 06/14/15.
Perspective from Interstate 35 north
Interstate 35 advances north from the merge of I-35E/W with six overall lanes through to U.S. 8 (Exit 132) at Forest Lake. Photo taken 06/15/15.
Perspective from Interstate 35 south
Passing between Clear and Mud Lakes in Forest Lake, Interstate 35 is three miles out from the I-35E-W separation. Photo taken 04/23/07.
Advancing south from the interchange with Minnesota 97 (Exit 129), the first in a series of signs outlines the forthcoming split of Interstates 35E-W south. Photo taken 06/15/15.
The right lanes of I-35 south connect with Interstate 35W southwest to Minneapolis, and the left lanes progress southward on Interstate 35E to the capital city. A truck restriction is in place for through trucks on I-35E due to the parkway section south of Downtown St. Paul. Photo taken 06/15/15.
Motorists along I-35 south reach the separation of Exit 127. I-35W turns west through Lino Lakes to Blaine, Mounds View, Arden Hills and New Brighton. I-35E ventures south to Centerville, White Bear Lake, Vadnais Heights and Little Canada. Photo taken 06/15/15.
Historical Perspective from Interstate 35 south
Diagrammatic signs for Interstates 35E-W posted on southbound I-35 were replaced by 2011. Note that Exit 127 is used for Interstate 35W, while the exit numbering for I-35 continues along I-35E. Photo taken 04/23/07.
A second diagrammatic sign for I-35E-W was posted next to the weigh station on southbound Interstate 35. Photo taken 04/23/07.
Former overheads posted at Exit 127 on I-35 south. Notice how the cardinal direction indicators are omitted on these signs. Photo taken 04/23/07.
Historical Perspective from Interstate 35E south
This state-named shield was the first reassurance marker for I-35E south. It was replaced by 2008 and stood just ahead of the overpass carrying I-35W north onto I-35. Photo taken 04/23/07.
Perspective from Interstate 35W south
Interstate 35W straddles wetland areas associated with Rice Creek Chain of Lakes Park Reserve on the initial stretch leading away from I-35E. This view looks at the first southbound reassurance marker. Photo taken 06/15/15.

Sources:

  1. Interstate 35W Bridge Collapse - Mississippi River Crossing in downtown Minneapolis
  2. "North, South Legs Of I-35E Will Finally Be Connected." St. Paul Pioneer Press (MN), October 7, 1990.
  3. mndotvis. (2013, March 26). I-35E project video [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bqZgvaEKcPc
  4. I-35E South Metro (outside the Beltway), Adam Froehlig.
  5. "MnPASS lanes open on I-35E." Pioneer Press, November 29, 2015.

Page Updated December 3, 2015.

Mileage

Interstate 35E
State Minnesota
Mileage 39.34
Cities Eagan, Saint Paul, Roseville, Lino Lakes
Junctions Interstate 494, Interstate 94, Interstate 694
Interstate 35W
State Minnesota
Mileage 41.78
Cities Burnsville, Bloomington, Richfield, Minneapolis, Roseville, Blaine, Lino Lakes
Junctions Interstate 494, Interstate 94, Interstate 694
Source: December 31, 2015 Interstate Route Log and Finders List
Downtown Minneapolis Inset - 1975 Minnesota Official Highway Map
Minnesota 36 provided the link between the two sections of Interstate 35W between Hennepin Avenue and New Brighton Boulevard (U.S. 8) until the freeway was completed. The interchange with I-335, a planned east-west connector to I-94, held up completion of this section until it was canceled in 1975.
Minneapolis and St. Paul Inset - 1983-84 Minnesota Official Highway Map
Interstate 35E opened to traffic between Interstate 35 at Burnsville and Minnesota 77 at Eagan in 1982. The freeway north to Interstate 494 at Mendota Heights was completed by late 1985.4
Initial construction on the parkway section of Interstate 35E ran northward from Minnesota 5 (West 7th Street) to the Linwood Park vicinity in 1980. The route however would not open for another ten years.
The Parkway section of I-35E defaults northbound motorists onto I-94 east while access to I-35E southbound is only available directly from I-94 west. Local streets are required to make the missing connections.