Anyone who drove through the construction as crews built the new interchange at Interstate 494 and Highway 169 knows the project was a pain for commuters, but officials say the one-week progress report of the new interchange shows significant gains in traffic flow and business access.
After decades on the drawing board, two years of construction and $124 million, the Minnesota Department of Transportation says there's been a dramatic difference in the daily commute of many motorists. The typical half-hour of stop-and-go traffic during rush hour is already easing.
"We're still going to see backups on 494. We're going to see that on a daily basis -- and then again on 169, but we're not going to see them as long," John Giffith, west area manager for MnDOT "So, the traffic is going to clear out a lot faster."
In fact, travelers are moving through the interchange fast enough that some expect it will soon be driving jobs to the area. At a ceremonial ribbon cutting, Scott County Commissioner John Ulrich said the construction itself created an economic boost.
"Since this project was announced, three large employers have located on the corridor and they cited this project as the reason," Ulrich said.
Those companies include Image Print Solutions, Sanmar Corporation and Trystar in the Shakopee area, but communities as far south as Mankato had been pushing for this project because truck traffic and commute times up and down the corridor
The new interchange features two new flyway ramps from westbound 494 to north and south 169 and six roundabouts on the frontage roads -- three on each side of the interstate. All the roads opened last week, but the landscaping is expected to continue on for a few more weeks.