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Reader's View: Duluth needs to talk about I-35 downtown

A goal could be reducing the separation of downtown and Canal Park.

Reader's View.jpg

In recent weeks, the Minnesota Department of Transportation has been hosting virtual discussion sessions for input on replacing the Fifth Avenue West bridge, which connects downtown Duluth to the DECC and aquarium area. The replacement would be part of the rebuild of Interstate 35 in downtown Duluth.

A more visionary concept has been proposed to significantly revise the layout of the freeway in this area. This concept currently has the support of the Duluth City Council as something to consider as the freeway is evaluated for redevelopment following the “Can of Worms” project.

In the 1970s, freeway construction from Mesaba Avenue east was halted for 10 years to reevaluate the MnDOT alignment proposed to extend into Lake Superior. This allowed adequate time to develop a comprehensive plan for the area as the next segment through the downtown to be built. Anyone interested in that plan can find it in the “Red Book,” likely in the public library.

It’s time to do that again with the assistance of a consultant who can bring expertise to the process and coordinate sufficient public input through a series of sessions. The sessions would allow for ideas to be expressed and exhibited in a series of draft plans, to arrive at what this area could be developed into while providing adequately for vehicle and other forms of transportation and for adjacent real-estate development. A goal could be reducing the separation of downtown and Canal Park.

My suggestion is for city administration to work closely with MnDOT, the Metropolitan Interstate Committee, and the chamber of commerce to hire a consultant and include all stakeholders in a major public-input process over a reasonable period of time to produce a plan supported by all interests.

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Bill Majewski

Duluth

The writer is a former member of the city of Duluth planning staff from 1972 to 2001 and in the 1970s and 1980s was part of CIHE, or Citizens for Integration of Highway and Environment, a grassroots group that influenced the Interstate 35 expansion through downtown Duluth.


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