Plans to connect Lake Street, I-35 subject of open house

WHITTIER & LYNDALE – Plans to improve access to Interstate 35W from Lake Street are coming back into focus.

Officials behind the long-planned project, which aims to add on- and off-ramps as well as a new transit station, are holding an open house on Tuesday, May 1 at the Whittier Community Center, 425 W. 26th St.

The open house will run from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. and give residents an opportunity to ask questions and see renderings of a proposed transit station that would be built in the middle of Interstate 35, as well as potential routes for new on- and off-ramps.

Officials have been talking about such improvements for around 15 years, but questions over cost and concerns about razing buildings adjacent to the interstate have slowed progress. 

Joyce Wisdom, the executive director of the Lake Street Council, said plans under consideration now limit the need to raze any buildings adjacent to the interstate.

Wisdom said the on- and off-ramps are needed to improve Lake Street access for businesses and residents. Commuters on Interstate 35 now exit several blocks north or south of Lake Street.

A new transit station would also serve as a marked improvement over the existing bus stops, which sit at the top of a steep staircase, she said. Officials are hoping to build a two-story access station that would be similar to the one built at Interstate 35 and 46th Street, which opened in December 2010.

Officials say the plans are now estimated to cost around $150 to $160 million. While funding sources are still being identified, plans could take shape in the next two years, they say.

The efforts come at the same time officials move ahead with plans to connect north and south Nicollet Avenue, just two blocks west of Interstate 35. A Kmart at Lake Street and Nicollet Avenue currently separates the corridor.