Freeway noise in Northeast Minneapolis: Where there’s a will, there’s a wall…or not


State, county and city officials have set another round of public meetings on a plan to ease congestion on northbound Interstate 35W and nearby streets.

The plan includes building a new ramp for northbound 35W from Fourth Street South, building an extra lane (called an auxiliary lane) between the University Avenue SE entrance and the Johnson Street NE exit; closing the Stinson Boulevard-New Brighton Boulevard exit; re-working the Johnson Street exit so motorists can still reach the destinations available from the Stinson-New Brighton Boulevard exit; and building noise barriers to reduce noise levels in nearby neighborhoods.

Planners say the project will relieve congestion on Washington Avenue South, improve transit access to northbound I-35W from downtown Minneapolis, reduce the diversion of traffic through Northeast Minneapolis and improve safety and operation at the northbound I-35W ramps at Washington Avenue and University Avenue/Fourth Street SE.

Federal highway rules require local officials to plan noise abatement in places along the project where noise barriers will make a difference for nearby residents. The noise abatement plan has to be evaluated for feasibility (will it actually reduce noise), reasonableness (“consideration of the viewpoints of the property owners and residents” affected by the barriers) and cost-effectiveness. Officials have developed a voting procedure to gauge residents’ opinions on the noise barriers; they plan to describe the procedure at the public meetings.

The project was originally scheduled for 2012. In late 2011, however, residents raised concerns about traffic issues and the noise barriers. Planners decided to re-work the noise barriers and have more meetings with residents.

Scott Pederson, project manager for the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT), said, “We agreed to take a step back…take another look.” The project is now scheduled for 2014.

Three meetings are scheduled, with plans to discuss each neighborhood’s issues at a meeting near that neighborhood:

For residents in and near the Mid-City Industrial, Beltrami and Northeast Park neighborhoods, the meeting is set for Wednesday, July 24, 5-7 p.m. at Logan Park Recreation Center, 690 13th Ave. NE. For residents in and near the Marcy Holmes Neighborhood, the meeting is set for University Lutheran Church of Hope, 601 13th Ave. SE. For residents in and near the Como Neighborhood, the meeting is set for Van Cleve Park, 901 15th Ave. SE. All of the meetings are scheduled to run 5-7 p.m., with an open house 5-6 p.m. and a presentation and questions/answers 6-7 p.m.

The proposed noise barriers that most affect Northeast are called Wall K and Wall L. Wall K is planned the west side of 35W from approximately East Hennepin Avenue to Summer Street NE. Wall L is planned for the west side of 35W from approximately Broadway Street NE to Johnson Street NE. Pederson said the walls are planned to be 20 feet high, built with concrete posts and wood planks. They will be similar, he said, to the noise barriers near the junction of 35W and Crosstown Highway 62.

Other nearby proposed noise barriers are Wall I, on the east side of I-35W starting at the railroad bridge and ending just north of Talmage Avenue SE; West Wall E, on the west side of I-35W starting at approximately Fourth Street SE to approximately Eighth Street SE; East Wall F, on the east side of I-35W starting at approximately Fourth Street SE and ending at approximately Eighth Street SE; and West Wall G, on the west side of I- 35W starting at approximately Eighth Street SE and ending at the railroad.

The project cost is $16 million if the noise barriers are included; or $13 million if the noise barriers are eliminated.Tax dollars from the State of Minnesota, Hennepin County and the City of Minneapolis are funding the project.

Related: Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association protests proposed I-35W sound wall in Minneapolis (Bill Huntzicker, 2013)