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Interstate 35E / 35W Minnesota

 

Routing

Interstate 35 splits into Interstates 35E and 35W to serve St. Paul (east) and Minneapolis (west). This is one of two split route designations (as evidenced by letter suffixes), the other being in Texas along Interstate 35.

Sadly, this view is no longer available ... it is northbound Interstate 35W traveling across the now-collapsed Interstate 35W Mississippi River bridge. Photo taken by Alex Nitzman (04/23/07).

Collapse of Interstate 35W Mississippi River Bridge

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 support elements along the under side of the bridge) failed, causing the bridge collapase to occur. An in depth report from the NTSB on the event is available on the MNDot web site.

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 bridge, 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 Interstate 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' wider than the original span, and includes both full inside and outside shoulders. More information can be found at I35W St. Anthony Falls Bridge (MnDOT).

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

Southern Terminus - Interstate 35 - Burnsville, Minnesota
Perspective from Interstate 35W south
The final exit along Interstate 35W is Exit 1, Junction Dakota County Route 42/Crystal Lake Road in Burnsville. Photo taken by Alex Nitzman (04/21/07).
The southbound lanes of Interstate 35E pass over the southbound lanes of Interstate 35W. A mileage sign is posted for the next offramp (Exit 86, Junction Dakota County Route 46) as well as Exit 85, Junction Dakota County Route 5 and Dakota County Route 50. The southbound control city of Albert Lea is listed at the bottom of the sign. Photo taken by Alex Nitzman (04/21/07).
An "Interstate 35W ENDS, BEGIN Interstate 35" sign is posted prior to the merge of Interstate 35W and Interstate 35E. Photo taken by Alex Nitzman (04/21/07).
Interstate 35E merges onto Interstate 35W from the right. The right lane of Interstate 35E will end, and three southbound lanes continue toward the next exit (Exit 86, Junction Dakota County Route 46). Photo taken by Alex Nitzman (04/21/07).
Perspective from Interstate 35E south
Southbound Interstate 35E approaches Exit 88B, Junction Dakota County Route 42, one mile. This is the last exit before Interstate 35E merges with Interstate 35W in Burnsville. Photo taken by Chris Lokken (07/13/06).
This mileage sign is posted on southbound Interstate 35E after the Dakota County Route 11 interchange. The next exit is Exit 88B, Junction Dakota County Route 42. Unmentioned on this mileage sign is Exit 88A, Junction Interstate 35W north to Minneapolis; there is no access from southbound Interstate 35E to northbound Interstate 35W. There is no access to Interstate 35W north from Interstate 35E south (and there is no access from Interstate 35W south to Interstate 35E north); the interchange is a standard-Y. To get to Interstate 35W north from Interstate 35E south (and to get from Interstate 35E north on Interstate 35W south), one has to exit on that interchange with Dakota County Route 42 and drive a very short distance. The interchange with Dakota County Route 46 is located south of the Interstate 35W merge with Interstate 35E. Photo taken by Chris Lokken (07/13/06).
The final exit along southbound Interstate 35E is Exit 88B, Junction Dakota County Route 42. After this interchange, the freeway will merge with southbound Interstate 35W. Photo taken by Chris Lokken (07/13/06).
This "End Interstate 35E/Begin Interstate 35" signage is posted on southbound Interstate 35E on the overpass for the Dakota County Route 42 interchange. Photo taken by Alex Nitzman (04/23/07).
Perspective from Interstate 35 south
After Interstate 35W and Interstate 35E merge together, the first exit along unified Interstate 35 south is Exit 86, Junction Dakota County Route 46. Photo taken by Alex Nitzman (04/21/07).
Southbound Interstate 35 reaches Exit 86, Junction Dakota County Route 46 in Burnsville. Photo taken by Alex Nitzman (04/21/07).
Perspective from Interstate 35 north
This mileage sign, which is located 21 miles south of the Interstate 35E-W split prior to Exit 69 (Junction Minnesota 19 near Northfield) is the first mention of the pending Interstate 35 split before entering the Twin Cities metropolitan area. Photos taken by Alex Nitzman (04/20/07) and Jeff Morrison (03/19/07).
As Interstate 35 north approaches the metropolitan Twin Cities, it will split into Interstate 35E to St. Paul and Interstate 35W to Minneapolis. Other than the Dallas/Fort Worth split in Texas, this is the only remaining east/west split of an Interstate highway in the country. Both splits are located on Interstate 35. Photo taken by Alex Nitzman (04/20/07).
A truck restriction on Interstate 35E between Minnesota 5 and Interstate 94 means that through trucks should use Interstate 35W or the Interstate 494-694 belt route. Photo taken by Alex Nitzman (04/20/07).
After Exit 86 (Junction Dakota County Route 46/162nd Street), this brown guide sign indicates that the Minnesota Zoo is via Interstate 35E north and Minnesota 77 south, and the Mystic Lake Casino is via Interstate 35E north and Dakota County Route 42. Photo taken by Alex Nitzman (04/21/07).
Northbound Interstate 35 reaches Exit 87, Crystal Lake Road. The next exit, Exit 88, is the split. Interstate 35E carries the mileage and exit numbering of mainline Interstate 35, while Interstate 35W is an independent route with its own exit numbers and mileage. Photo taken by Alex Nitzman (04/21/07).
Use Interstate 35E north to Exit 88B (Junction Dakota County Route 42). Interstate 35E continues north with the mileage-based numbering of Interstate 35, while Interstate 35W has its own set of distinct mileposts and mileage-based exit numbers. Photo taken by Alex Nitzman (04/21/07).
Diagrammatical sign indicating the split of the three lanes into Interstate 35W to Minneapolis and Interstate 35E to St. Paul, the capital of Minnesota. For access to Interstate 94 east, use Interstate 35E; to reach Interstate 94 west, use Interstate 35W. Photo taken by Alex Nitzman (04/21/07).
Interstate 35W and Interstate 35E split at Exit 88A. The left two lanes travel north toward Minneapolis, while the right two lanes travel toward St. Paul. Photos taken by Alex Nitzman (04/21/07) and Jeff Morrison (03/19/07).
Perspective from Interstate 35E north
After the ramp to Exit 88B (Junction Dakota County Route 42), the second exit along Interstate 35E north is Exit 90, Dakota County Route 11. Photo taken by Alex Nitzman (04/21/07).
This is the first reassurance shield for northbound Interstate 35E after the Interstate 35W split in Burnsville. Photo taken by Alex Nitzman (04/21/07).
Perspective from Interstate 35W north
The first exit along Interstate 35W north is Exit 2, Burnsville Parkway. Photo taken by Alex Nitzman (04/21/07).
Shortly thereafter is the first Interstate 35W north reassurance shield after the Interstate 35W split in Burnsville. Photo taken by Alex Nitzman (04/21/07).
Northern Terminus - Interstate 35 - near Lino Lakes, Minnesota
Perspective from Interstate 35E north
End Interstate 35E/begin Interstate 35 advance guide sign on Interstate 35E northbound. A similar sign can be found on Interstate 35W northbound. Photo taken by Monte Castleman (07/02).
Perspective from Interstate 35W north
The final exit along Interstate 35W north is Exit 36, Junction Anoka County Route 23. The merge point with Interstate 35E is located four miles ahead. Photo taken by Alex Nitzman (04/23/07).
After the onramp from Anoka County Route 23 is the final reassurance shield for Interstate 35W. Photo taken by Alex Nitzman (04/23/07).
This mileage sign provides the distance to Exit 129, Junction Minnesota 97 and Anoka County Route 23; Exit 131, Junction Washington County Route 2 to Forest Lake; and the control city of Duluth (133 miles). Photo taken by Alex Nitzman (04/23/07).
Now traveling north on Interstate 35W, this "End Interstate 35W/begin Interstate 35" sign is posted prior to the merge point with Interstate 35E. The two routes merge together to re-form Interstate 35 en route to Duluth. This is a very rural-looking stretch of Interstate with a 70 mile per hour speed limit. Photos taken by Alex Nitzman (04/23/07) and Jeff Morrison (03/19/07).
A weigh station is located after the merge between Interstate 35W and Interstate 35E. This bridge carries Anoka County Route 21 over Interstate 35W. Photo taken by Alex Nitzman (04/23/07).
The southbound lanes of Interstate 35W cross over Interstate 35E. This view shows the southbound split of Interstate 35 into Interstate 35E and Interstate 35W. Photo taken by Alex Nitzman (04/23/07).
The right lane of Interstate 35W will end at the merge point with Interstate 35E. Photo taken by Alex Nitzman (04/23/07).
Another view of the Interstate 35W-Interstate 35E merge from northbound Interstate 35W comes into view. Traffic from Interstate 35E merges in from the left. Photo taken by Alex Nitzman (04/23/07).
Perspective from Interstate 35 north
This is the first reassurance shield for Interstate 35 north after the Interstate 35E-Interstate 35W merge. Photo taken by Alex Nitzman (04/23/07).
Perspective from Interstate 35 south
Now traveling south on Interstate 35, the split with Interstate 35E and Interstate 35W is identified on this mileage sign found prior to the interchange with Minnesota 97 and Anoka County Route 23 (Exit 129). Photo taken by Alex Nitzman (04/23/07).
This diagrammatical sign is the first advance guide signage for the Interstate 35E/W split along southbound. Note that Exit 127 is used for Interstate 35W, while the exit numbering for Interstate 35 continues along Interstate 35E. This diagrammatical sign is very similar to one used on Interstate 35 northbound approaching Exit 88. Photo taken by Alex Nitzman (04/23/07).
A second diagrammatical sign is posted next to the weigh station on southbound Interstate 35. The right lanes connect to Interstate 35W to Minneapolis, and the left lanes connect to Interstate 35E to St. Paul. A truck restriction is in place for through trucks on Interstate 35E. Photo taken by Alex Nitzman (04/23/07).
Interstate 35E/W sign bridge for the split on Interstate 35 south. Notice how the cardinal direction indicators are omitted on these signs. Photo taken by Don Greiskalns (6/01).
Perspective from Interstate 35E south
This is the first Interstate 35E south reassurance shield after the split. The shield is located prior to the flyover ramp that connects Interstate 35W north with Interstate 35 north. Very few state-named shields remain for Interstate 35E in Minnesota. Photo taken by Alex Nitzman (04/23/07).

Sources:

  1. Interstate 35W Bridge Collapse - Mississippi River Crossing in downtown Minneapolis

Page Updated May 27, 2009.

 
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: October 31, 2002 Interstate Route Log and Finders List
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