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.3
Completion dates per Minnesota Official Highway Maps:
- 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.