History of Interstate 35 in Minnesota

History of Interstate 35 in Minnesota

The highway was approved as a Minnesota state highway in 1956, and was built mostly in the 1960s. The road largely replaced existing US 61 and US 65. The first section opened at Owatonna and was the first Interstate Highway to open in Minnesota. Until the 1990s, the northern end was in the town of Duluth, but was extended past the center of this town in 1992.

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Opening history

Opening data sourced from Minnesota State Highway maps.

Interstate 35

Construction on the rural portion of I-35 began in the mid-1950s, and in 1959 the first portion was opened at Owatonna in the south of the state. It was not until the mid-1960s that construction began to accelerate, with large sections opening in particular in 1970. In 1973 a missing link opened at Faribault, and the rural part was more or less complete. The last sections opened to traffic in Duluth between 1989 and 1992. This was also the last section of the entire I-35 to open.

In Duluth is an interchange with Interstate 535. This is called the ‘can of worms interchange’ because of its complex configuration. The interchange was reconstructed between 2021 and 2024, dubbed the Twin Ports Interchange Project at a cost of $343 million.

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Van Unpleasant Length Opening
Exit 42 Exit 49 12 km 1959
Exit 180 Exit 195 24 km 1963
Exit 59 Exit 69 16 km 1964
Exit 69 Exit 76 12 km 1965
Exit 165 Exit 180 24 km 1965
Exit 39 Exit 42 5 km 1966
Exit 48 Exit 56 13 km 1966
Exit 195 Exit 214 31 km 1966
Exit 235 Exit 239 6 km 1966
Exit 76 Exit 88 13 km 1967
Exit 18 Exit 39 34 km 1968
Exit 127 Exit 165 61 km 1970
Exit 214 Exit 235 34 km 1970
Exit 13 Exit 18 8 km 1972
Exit 0 Exit 13 21 km 1973
Exit 56 Exit 59 5 km 1973
Exit 250 Exit 256 10 km 1973
Exit 239 Exit 250 18 km 1978
Exit 256 Exit 258 3 km 1989
Exit 258 Exit 259 1 km 28-10-1992
Interstate 35 West (Minneapolis)

Construction of I-35 West, the branch through Minneapolis, progressed more smoothly than I-35 East through St. Paul, but was nevertheless relatively slow. In 1960, the first part opened in the southern city of Bloomington. The bridge over the Minnesota River opened in 1961, and the first section north of the city opened in 1965. The highway opened further fragmented, especially the bypass of downtown Minneapolis took quite a while. The bridge over the Mississippi River opened in 1967, but it wasn’t until 1976 before the last link north of downtown was closed and I-35 could be used continuously from Iowa to Duluth.

Van Unpleasant Length Opening
Exit 5 Exit 11 10 km 1960
Exit 3 Exit 5 3 km 1961
Exit 23 Exit 31 13 km 1965
Exit 22 Exit 23 2 km 1966
Exit 0 Exit 3 5 km 1967
Exit 11 Exit 16 8 km 1968
Exit 16 Exit 17 2 km 1969
Exit 31 Exit 36 8 km 1969
Exit 36 Exit 42 10 km 1970
Exit 17 Exit 18 1 km 1970
Exit 18 Exit 19 1 km 1973
Exit 21 Exit 23 3 km 1973
Exit 19 Exit 21 3 km 1976
Interstate 35 East (St. Paul)

The construction of Interstate 35 East did not go so well. During the 1960s, a number of sections were opened, especially north of St. Paul and the Mississippi River Bridge. Then construction stopped. A fairly long section opened in 1971, but this actually runs outside the urban area in the north of the region. The link south of St. Paul and in the city itself did not open until the 1980s. Construction of I-35 East through St. Paul met much resistance, and the last link was not opened until 1990, where I-35 East was built. -35E connected to I-94.

Van Unpleasant Length Opening
Exit 109 Exit 113 6 km 1962
Exit 102 Exit 103 2 km 1966
Exit 108 Exit 109 2 km 1966
Exit 101 Exit 102 2 km 1967
Exit 107 Exit 108 2 km 1969
Exit 113 Exit 127 23 km 1971
Exit 88 Exit 92 6 km 1981
Exit 92 Exit 101 14 km 1987
Exit 103 Exit 106 5 km 1987
Exit 106 Exit 107 2 km 15-10-1990

Traffic intensities

17,600 vehicles cross the Iowa border every day, and towards Minneapolis, this slowly rises to 40,000 vehicles per day. In Bloomington, this rises to 116,000 vehicles, and 171,000 in Minneapolis. Just before the center, 204,000 vehicles drive, and the double numbering with the I-94 counts 258,000 vehicles per day. 140,000 vehicles drove over the collapsed bridge every 24 hours. Further north, this drops to around 110,000 vehicles. In Saint Paul, 202,000 vehicles drive on the busiest section off I-94. Outside of that, it is somewhat lower at 140,000. Between Minneapolis and Duluth, this drops to 15,000 vehicles per day.

Lane Configuration

Main Route I-35

Van Unpleasant Lanes Comments
Exit 0 Exit 85 2×2
Exit 85 Exit 88 2×3 Minneapolis
Exit 127 Exit 132 2×3 Minneapolis
Exit 132 Exit 246 2×2
Exit 246 Exit 251 2×3 Duluth
Exit 251 Exit 260 2×2 Duluth

I-35W

Van Unpleasant Lanes Comments
Exit 0 Exit 13 2×3 Bloomington
Exit 13 Exit 16A 2×4 Minneapolis
Exit 16A Exit 16B 4×3 Minneapolis
Exit 16B Exit 23 2×4 Minneapolis
Exit 23 Exit 28 2×3 Roseville
Exit 28 Exit 30 2×4 Blaine
Exit 30 Exit 42 2×2 Blaine

I-35E

Van Unpleasant Lanes Comments
Exit 88 Exit 92 2×2 Burnsville
Exit 92 Exit 97 2×3 Eagan
Exit 97 Exit 99 2×4 Eagan
Exit 99 Exit 104 2×3 St. Paul
Exit 104 Exit 107B 2×2 St. Paul
Exit 107B Exit 107A 2×5 St. Paul
Exit 107A Exit 108 2×4 St. Paul
Exit 108 Exit 114 2×3 Maplewood
Exit 114 Exit 127 2×2

History of Interstate 35 in Minnesota

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