Interstate 494 Minnesota
Interstate 494 forms the southern and western quadrants of the 73 mile long Twin Cities beltway system while I-94 and I-694 travel along the northern portion of the loop from Maple Grove east to Oakdale. I-494 and I-694 share end points and an exit numbering system. Exit 1 A and 1 B are located south of the Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport (MSP) in Bloomington. Numbers increase as I-494 travels clockwise and reset at the Minnesota River.
A mostly suburban commuter freeway, the 42 mile long route of Interstate 494 serves communities such as Plymouth, Minnetonka, Eden Prairie, Bloomington, South St. Paul and Woodbury. I-494 overlaps with MN 5 from U.S. 212 (Exit 11 C) to the airport (Exit 1 A) along the locally known Bloomington Strip. The western leg from Eden Prairie north to I-94/694 at Maple Grove parallels a transmission corridor.
The I-494 and I-35W Study outlines long range plans upgrading the cloverleaf interchange built in the 1960s joining I-35W and I-494 on the Bloomington and Richfield city line. Studies in 2014 outlined two designs for the exchange: the Turbine concept and the Clovermill concept. The Turbine adds flyovers in all directions with the exception of I-35E south to I-494 east, while the Clovermill design only adds a flyover from I-35E north to I-494 west. Both were evaluated in their ability to improve congestion and safety while providing a cost effective solution. The Turbine interchange design was carried forward by 2014.10
Source: December 31, 2021 Interstate Route Log and Finders List
Minnesota Trunk Highway 100 was dropped along I-494 through Bloomington by 1963. The section north of Minneapolis and St. Paul was decommissioned in 1965 as Interstate 694 was completed. Remaining stretches east of St. Paul and south of St. Paul were renumbered as MN 110 and MN 120 respectively.
Interstate 494 directly overlaid MN 110 from Robert Trail (old U.S. 52) east to the split diamond interchange (Exit 65) with 7th and 5th Avenues in South St. Paul.
Prior to construction of the Interstate system, the Twin Cities were encircled by Minnesota Trunk Highway 100, a mostly at-grade belt line. A good comparison can be made with Indianapolis, which also had a pre-Interstate belt line numbered SR 100. The initial stretches of Interstate 494 utilized upgraded stretches of MN 100, including the overlap with MN 5 from Exit 7 to 1 A across Bloomington and MN 100 between South St. Paul and Newport. Upgrades there were completed by 1959. The section at South St. Paul was extended west from MN 156 to 5th and 7th Avenues (Exit 65) in 1960. Construction through 1961 replaced the alignment of MN 5 along 78th Street westward with a new freeway to then U.S. 169/212 at Rowland.1
The next portions of I-494 completed were between U.S. 10/61 (Exit 63) north to Valley Creek Road (Exit 59) at Woodbury in 1962 and the section from Rowland north to MN 7 (Exit 16) at Minnetonka in 1963. Further lengthening of this section followed in 1966 from MN 7 to MN 55 (Exit 22) at Plymouth.1
The links with I-94 from I-494 were open from Exit 59 to Oakdale in 1967 and between MN 55 and I-94 east at Maple Grove in 1968. The full interchange with I-94/694 was not completed until 1973 when Interstate 94 opened to the northwest. This left the portion between the MN 5 freeway at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) and 7th Avenue in South St. Paul. Litigation delayed this stretch, with construction finally underway by 1980 with completion east across the Minnesota River to MN 55 in 1982. The final segment took I-494 east to Sunfish Lake, and over the original MN 100/110 alignment through Inver Grove Heights to Exit 65 in 1986.1
The Wakota Bridge, named after the two counties it connected: Washington and Dakota, opened in 1959 as part of the original MN 100 belt line encircling the Twin Cities area. Reflecting a pre-Interstate system design, the steel arch bridge carried four overall lanes with no shoulders. A $206 million project to replace the aging span started with preparation work at Red Rock Road on November 20, 2001. Originally slated for completion in Fall 2007 and split into nine projects, construction included widening U.S. 61 to six lanes through Newport, rebuilding 3.5 miles of I-494 and replacing the bridge across the Mississippi River.2
As work progressed, costs increased to $250 million. Completed construction by late 2003 included redesigns of Bailey Road, Point Douglas Road and Hastings Avenue, local roads tieing into I-494 just east of U.S. 61. These were rebuilt to accommodate access changes for the Wakota Project.3
Issues with the Wakota Project arose in September 2005 when an abnormal amount of hairline cracking in support sections of the new span were discovered during inspection. While the deficiencies did not compromise the structural integrity of the bridge, if left unaddressed, they may have allowed road salt and water seepage to corrode metal support elements and ultimately shortened the 100 year lifespan of the crossing.4
Construction crews retrofitted the span by installing additional support cables as the scheduled completion of the first span shifted from November 2005 to Fall 2006. With retrofit work taking longer than expected, the overall completion was delayed from 2007 to 2008.4,5 Not long after the first new span opened with two-way traffic in October 2006, issues between Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) officials and the contractor, Lunda Construction Co., culminated when a dispute over costs led the state to release the construction firm. Necessary design changes resulting from the hairline cracks added $15 million to the project costs. The time table for completion was pushed back again to 2009.6
The 1959 Wakota Bridge was dismantled in January 2007, clearing the way for construction of the new eastbound span. A new bidding process commenced in January 2008 and with the lowest bid, $60.1-million, submitted by Lunda Construction Co. (the same company that MnDOT dropped from the project previously).7 Further actions resulted in a $20 million settlement between MnDOT and HNTB Corp., the engineering firm responsible for the original faulty design of the bridge. A portion of these funds were allocated to the reconstruction of Interstate 494 leading north from the Wakota Bridge to I-94 in Woodbury. Portions of the 1960s era freeway were expanded to six lanes with new concrete poured during work running simultaneously with the Wakota Project.8
The new eastbound span for Interstate 494 across the Mississippi River was finally completed on July 1, 2010. Costing $114 million, nearly twice the original estimates, the ten-lane crossing is the widest bridge in the state and the eighth-longest at 1,889 feet.9
The I-494 Rehabilitation Project underway from July 2014 to November 2016 expanded portions of the freeway between I-394/U.S. 12 at Minnetonka to the exchange with I-94/694 at Maple Grove. The $86 million project replaced the concrete surface of the freeway, rebuilt several overpasses and added auxiliary lanes.11
East End – Woodbury, Minnesota
West End – Maple Grove, Minnesota
2014-16 construction rehabilitated the concrete pavement of I-494 from Maple Grove south to Plymouth and I-394/U.S. 12. Additional work also replaced the I-494 bridges at CSAH 47, Schmidt Lake Road and the Canadian Pacific Railway and added auxiliary lanes between MN 55 and E Fish Lake Road. 06/16/15
- Twin Cities Interstate System (Adam Froehlig).
- “Work Begins On Wakota Bridge Project/$206 Million Endeavor Includes I-494, U.S. 61.” St. Paul Pioneer Press (MN), November 21, 2001.
- “Wakota Project Inches Forward.” St. Paul Pioneer Press (MN), December 6, 2003.
- “Design Problem Delays Wakota Bridge Opening – Officials Worry About Spring Barge Traffic.” St. Paul Pioneer Press (MN), August 17, 2005.
- “Repairs Delay I-494 Bridge Opening – South St. Paul Project’s End Date Pushed Back A Year To 2008.” St. Paul Pioneer Press (MN), December 2, 2005.
- “Troubled I-494 Bridge Project Hits New Snag – Another Delay Expected After MnDOT Ousts Contractor In Dispute Over Rising Costs.” St. Paul Pioneer Press (MN), December 29, 2006.
- “I-494 Bridge Bid Double Original Estimate – $60.1 Million Proposal To Finish Troubled Project Costs $3 Million More Than Builder’s 2006 Offer.” St. Paul Pioneer Press (MN), January 26, 2008.
- “Bridge Settlement Speeds Timetable – Completion of Wakota, I-494 Work Planned By July 2010.” St. Paul Pioneer Press (MN), November 26, 2008.
- “Finally, a wider Wakota – A headache for Dakota and Washington county drivers is nearly over. Construction of the new bridge — overbudget and snarling Interstate 494 at U.S. 61 for seven years — will be complete early next month.” St. Paul Pioneer Press (MN), June 27, 2010.
- I-494 / I-35W Interchange Fact Sheet 5 – Transitway Concept Refinement, April 2014.
http://www.dot.state.mn.us/metro/projects/ i494and35winterchange/pdf/20140502interchangeconcepts.pdfMinnesota Department of Transportation. http://www.dot.state.mn.us/metro/projects/i494plymouth/index.html
- I-94 East Metro Interchange.
https://www.dot.state.mn.us/metro/projects/i94-494-694/Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) project web site.
Page updated November 18, 2020.