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A History of Minneapolis: an Overview by Staff at the Hennepin County Library

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Featuring historical photos and items from the collections of the Hennepin County Library, with contemporary photos from the Phototour of Minneapolis by Chris Gregerson.

Intercity Transit and Highways (Part II)

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The city's population peaked in 1950 at 521,718. Soon, however, with the construction of freeways, the migration to the suburbs accelerated.

Interstate highways 35-W and 94 were opened in Minneapolis between 1967 and 1982. The construction of these freeways was not without controversy, as critics complained of the loss of housing stock and the disruption of neighborhoods. Other freeways that were planned during this period were postponed or cancelled due to neighborhood opposition. Land was cleared for Interstate 335 in Northeast Minneapolis in the 1970s before the project was abandoned. The site for a freeway along Hiawatha Avenue was cleared in the 1960s, but was not built due to community opposition to loss of green space. This opposition continued during the road's upgrade to a highway in the 1980s and during further upgrades and the addition of a light-rail line in the 1990s and after.

Boarding a bus on Nicollet Mall, April 1974.
Municipal Information Library, Slide Collection, MIL1592.

Today, as cities across the country strive to contain sprawl and reduce pollution, many have turned to mass transit. Minneapolis is the site for the first light-rail transit system in the state, under construction in 2000.

(Map: Freeways in Minneapolis, 1962-1992


  Freeway Construction in Minneapolis
Minnesota 55/Olson Mem. Hwy.   Divided highway opened Oct. 1940
U.S. 12/I-394   Divided highway opened 1939
      Expanded I-394 officially opened Oct. 1992
Hennepin Cty. 62/Minnesota 62 France Ave. to future I-35W 1963
    Future I-35W to Minnesota 55/Hiawatha Ave. 1965
Interstate 35W Highway 62 to 31st St. Jan. 1967
    31st St. to Downtown Nov. 1967
    I-94 to University Ave. June 1973
    University Ave. to E. Hennepin Sept. 1973
    E. Hennepin to Minnesota 36 in Roseville Nov. 1975
Interstate 94 St Paul to Hennepin/Lyndale intersection Dec. 1968
    Lowry Hill Tunnel Dec. 1971
    Lowry Hill Tunnel to Dowling Ave. N. Nov. 1981
    Dowling Ave. N. to I-694 Nov. 1982
Minnesota 55/Hiawatha Ave.   Planned freeway not built due to community opposition, 1970s; highway upgrade with light rail line, 1990s-2000
Interstate 335   Cancelled due to community opposition, 1972-1982
"Southwest Diagonal"   Cancelled due to community opposition, 1965
"28th Street Crosstown"   Planned 1960s, never built
"Cedar Ave. Freeway"   Planned 1960s, never built north of County 62


Construction of the Lowry Hill Tunnel for Interstate 94 (June 1970).
Municipal Information Library, Slide Collection, MIL1935.

Traffic on Interstate 35W at Diamond Lake Road (July 1972).
Municipal Information Library, Slide Collection, MIL0058.

Construction at Hiawatha Ave. and Minnehaha Parkway in preparation for light rail, July 2000.
Photo courtesy of Chris Gregerson

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