About this Initiative
MnDOT is in the midst of a planning process for reconstructing I-94 between downtown Saint Paul and downtown Minneapolis. This project presents one the largest opportunities to address the negative community impacts caused by the construction of the highway, and to reduce emissions.
An Unjust History
In the 1960s, the construction of I-94 destroyed homes, shuttered businesses, and displaced families. Communities of color were particularly harmed: 1 in 8 African Americans in Saint Paul’s historically Black Rondo neighborhood lost a home because of the highway’s construction. The emotional, social, and economic consequences of that racial injustice have persisted for a generation. And, of course, the neighborhoods along I-94 weren’t the only ones ripped apart: the histories of a multitude of highway projects around the state and country tell the same story, with long-lasting effects still being felt today.
What’s At Stake
The planners and elected officials who backed I-94 all those years ago prioritized car travel above Black families and above all else, making the highway the go-to way of getting from one downtown to the other. Today, it is a barrier for many residents—one that produces huge amounts of air pollution, damaging our climate and creating serious health problems for the communities around it. In the next 20 years, things could get better—or worse. This reconstruction project could begin to right some big wrongs and put us on the path to a more climate-friendly future, or it could double down on the mistakes of the past.
Learning from Community
Throughout 2018, and building on years of neighborhood engagement work that began in 2012, Move Minnesota engaged members of Saint Paul’s Rondo and Frogtown communities to better understand the impact that I-94 has had on residents’ lives, and the changes they want for the future. What we learned is guiding our advocacy today:
- Many people expressed a desire for safe streets to cross, slower moving vehicles, and ways for children to bike to neighborhood destinations.
- Frontage roads were repeatedly mentioned as major barriers to accessing the pedestrian and bike bridges that cross I-94.
- Most importantly, beyond better infrastructure, we heard the community’s need for transparency, accountability, and a seat at the decision-making table.
Informed by a multi-year community engagement process in communities along I-94, Move Minnesota and partners are pushing MnDOT to prioritize fast, frequent, and connected public transit along the corridor from downtown Minneapolis to downtown Saint Paul, and ensure that people can walk, bike, and use transit within and across the I-94 corridor without worrying about speeding cars. Together, we are building a coalition based on our shared values and a vision that centers people, not traffic.
As a member of MnDOT’s Community Leaders Group, Move Minnesota is demanding that MnDOT ensure the following as part of the reconstruction process:
- Build NO new lanes, and instead convert an existing lane to dedicated transit.
- Make fast, frequent, and improved transit a priority.
- Create safe biking, walking, and rolling connections and crossings in the communities adjacent to the corridor and build more livable communities.
- Create a process of involvement that is transparent, inclusive and economically beneficial to communities of color impacted by this corridor in the past, present and future.
Why It Matters
The changes that are being planned for in the I-94 corridor will impact the lives of people in the surrounding neighborhoods for many decades. Cars on the street and entering and exiting highways currently make it dangerous to walk and bike. The air pollution from highway travel lowers life expectancy by years, and even decades, in the communities adjacent to those corridors. Further, both Minneapolis and Saint Paul determined that car travel needs to be reduced 35-40 percent to adequately reduce climate pollution. The racial justice and environmental justice implications could not be more clear.
In Minnesota, while people of color and lower income tend to own fewer vehicles, do less driving, and use public transit more often than other groups, they are exposed to higher levels of traffic-related pollution. This is because busy roadways, and their associated air pollution, often run through communities of color and lower income.Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
Move Minnesota is collaborating along I-94 to advance sustainable, community-based solutions in a corridor rich with transit, biking, and walking needs and potential.
Related News & Updates
May 14, 2021
The Injustice of Urban Highways—and the Path Forward
I-94 in the Twin Cities, Houston, New Orleans and many more – From one city to the next, the stories about our highways’ unjust and environmentally destructive past and present are stunningly interchangeable.
February 27, 2021
Saint Paul Prioritizes Community and Transit Along I-94, Rejects Highway Expansion
We’re making progress in the fight for walking, biking, and transit solutions that put communities and climate first when I-94 is reconstructed!
December 18, 2020
People and Community First, When Reimagining the I-94 Corridor
Momentum is building among Twin Cities residents and elected leaders for sustainable and community-centered improvements to I-94.
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