Land Bridge over Highway 94 earns Golden Turkey nomination
You know how your radio goes out when you drive through the Lowry Hill tunnel? Imagine another tunnel twice as long a few miles down I-94 in St. Paul. That’s right. The legislature is looking at a $500 million “land bridge” over 94 from Lexington Ave to the Capitol. Of course, the $500 million is only an estimate. It’s a safe bet the final cost of the infrastructure necessary to cover a half mile of interstate will double faster than you can say “Southwest Light Rail.”
It’s being built to try to right a wrong that happened 70 years ago when the highway was built through a mostly Black neighborhood. What could possibly go wrong when government tries to “right past wrongs” and “make up for long overdue social justice” with a $500 million project?
The Minnesota Legislature tucked $6.2 million into the 2021 Tax Bill for project development of a “land bridge freeway lid over marked Interstate Highway 94 in a portion of the segment from Lexington Avenue to Rice Street in St. Paul.”
This is always how these projects begin: with a relatively small appropriation to set up an office, hire staff, study the problem, survey “stakeholders” and get “preliminary engineering” done. There’s always preliminary engineering. The problem is, once we spend that money, they come back for more, saying: “We can’t let the first money go to waste, we have to keep going.” And before long, it’s a billion dollars.
The proposed tunnel will be over a half-mile long, twice the length of the Lowry Hill tunnel in Minneapolis. Several questions remain unanswered, including where to reroute trucks carrying hazardous materials and how to prevent car accidents, since tunnels are notoriously dangerous.
Perhaps the biggest question is how planners will accomplish their goal of creating an “equitable future” for the site and avoid gentrification. In other words, how do you recreate an historic Black neighborhood if a bunch of white millennials end up renting all the new apartments? A rift has already developed among community leaders over this challenge.
The sheer magnitude of this project and its Critical Race Theory-inspired purpose earn the Highway 94 land bridge a Golden Turkey award nomination.