MnDOT nixes further Crosstown project environmental review

The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) said in August that the I-35W/Crosstown Highway reconstruction project does not need a second, more complicated environmental review that could delay the project.

The agency's notice said it "has determined the project does not have the potential for significant environmental impacts."

In July 2004, MnDOT completed an Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW) for the project that will reconstruct all Crosstown lanes, increasing lanes from six to 13 in some places. The plan will also extend high-occupancy vehicle lanes north to 42nd Street, add a bus rapid transit station at 46th Street and westbound Crosstown access at Lyndale Avenue in Windom.

The EAW measures a project's probable impact on pollution, including air and water quality and noise. A more rigorous Environmental Impact Statement could have been required, but MnDOT ruled it unnecessary.

Transit advocate and Kingfield resident Sean Wherley said he thinks the decision to suspend further review is flawed and that more study of the impacts should be done.

"This is a rush order so they can start construction on [the project] come May," he said.

At a July 2004 open house showcasing the EAW, Rep. Frank Hornstein (DFL-60B) called the document "inadequate." He noted his technical disagreements in the air quality projections, referencing an Environmental Protection Agency study.

The state's final EAW mentions some potential for land contamination and higher noise level, but presenters at the 2004 open house described the impacts as minimal.

However, increased water runoff will require wetland mitigation, possibly retention ponds, and a renovation of the Southwest stormwater tunnel that runs under I-35W.

Construction is scheduled to last until fall 2009. For more information on the Crosstown project or to view the EAW, visit projects.dot.state.mn.us/crosstown.