Long awaited 169-494 interchange opens

7:42 AM, Nov 22, 2012   |    comments
US 169 & I-494 Interchange aerial view
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- For people who drive US Highway 169 in the south metro it's a wish come true; the chance to cross over I-494 without stopping.

For decades, three sets of traffic signals stopped traffic on 169 on the approach to 494 in Eden Prairie, which created congestion, collisions and served as a daily reminder that the expressway wrapping around the west side of the metro was not a true interstate.

For the past two years construction added lane restrictions and more headaches for motorists.

"It was a hassle," Lauren Lichorowic of Eden Prairie told KARE. "I have to give myself a few more minutes every time I want to drive somewhere because it takes longer than I ever expect it to take."

But those days will soon be a fading memory. Contractors Wednesday put the finishing touches on a $125 million revamp of the interchange, opening all lanes of traffic.

"They plan on having all of the lanes open to the permanent configuration sometime over night, so by tomorrow it should be open," MnDOT spokesperson Kirsten Klein told KARE.

"They're continuing to do the striping in the area and getting some of the final touch-ups done."

The elaborate web of ramps and bridges makes sense only when seen from the air, but it's a sophisticated design that keeps traffic moving through and around the intersection.

Highway 169 sees an average of 80,000 vehicles a day in that stretch, while I-494 will experience 110,000 per day at that point.  With the stoplights removed motorists will be able to drive 33 miles on 169, from Shakopee to 93rd Avenue in Maple Grove, without stopping.

The project has been on the drawing board since the mid 1990's, but major construction began in the spring of 2011. The contract went to a joint venture of C.S. McCrossan and Edward Kraemer and Sons. 

All in all, people who had just driven through the revamped exchange gave it high marks Wednesday.

"It was a long wait, but it's worth it," Sheri Niederluecke of Eden Prairie remarked. "We can all tell the difference. Everybody loves it."

Ray Van Riper of Edina said he thinks it will have a positive impact on the economy in that part of the south metro, because congestion is a livability issue.

"I'm impressed how quickly they got it done," Van Riper of Edina told KARE.

"I just came from Edina, and came over here to pick up my Butterball turkey and it was awesome, just nice and easy. It will be a great asset to the community."

The frontage roads are connected through a series of roundabouts. That prompted MnDOT to post a video on the project website, a point-of-view primer for those on side streets on how to navigate from one side of the interchange to the other.

(Copyright 2012 by KARE. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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