sticker on cement pillar that reads "a better future is possible"

Our Streets Minneapolis is funding independent studies of a boulevard conversion on I-94 as part of the Twin Cities Boulevard campaign, a vision to replace the 7.5-mile stretch of highway between downtown Minneapolis and downtown Saint Paul with a multi-modal boulevard. In mid-July, the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) included two “at-grade” alternatives in the release of Rethinking I-94 project alternatives, but the transportation advocacy nonprofit is concerned about gaps in MnDOT’s data and criteria for the upcoming environmental impact statement (EIS).

The independent research collaboration seeks to demonstrate the reparative, climate, traffic, and economic benefits of Twin Cities Boulevard and ensure that traffic, land use, and economic modeling for the boulevard option is complete and accurate. A public opinion poll will seek to demonstrate responses to growing public consent and support for a Boulevard conversion.

The Rethinking I-94 traffic analysis overlooks the well-documented effects of induced demandtraffic evaporation, and land use changes. The independent research collaboration will demonstrate the economic benefits of Twin Cities Boulevard and ensure that traffic modeling for the boulevard option is complete and accurate.

The deficiency in analysis comes from a long history of centering cars as the sole means of getting around. Additionally, the Rethinking I-94 project is wrestling with the injustices of highway construction, a history of destruction and displacement of communities of color across the United States. MnDOT has stated their “actions 60 years ago devastated communities, and those impacts are still felt today.” With highway expansion included in the project alternatives, some say the sentiments fall flat.

“MnDOT has been targeting, destroying communities, and displacing Black, Indigenous and Immigrant people of color for nearly a century,” says José Antonio Zayas Cabán, executive director of Our Streets Minneapolis. “Today, MnDOT is presenting inaccurate information to the public and policymakers about traffic, climate, health, and economic harms following the release of the Rethinking I-94 project options.”

Our Streets Minneapolis has hired a team of nationally renowned experts to analyze “at-grade” project alternatives. Toole Design GroupSmart MobilityVisible City, and Data for Progress will research traffic impacts using contemporary best practices for multimodal urban transportation modeling, gauge public opinion to inform a community-based evaluation of alternatives and explore the massive economic opportunity of pavement being turned into new housing, businesses, and parks.

“Everyone will be affected by the outcome of Rethinking I-94, but this project needs to prioritize the health and well-being of the working class, Black and brown communities that neighbor the highway,” says Robin Wonsley, Minneapolis City Councilmember and Policy Advisory Committee member for the Rethinking I-94 project. “We have a huge opportunity here that will impact generations of residents. Do we want to choose to continue a car-centered design that continues patterns of harm and inequity, or do we want to invest in a healthy, just, and green future?”