Changes to downtown I-35 may bring new jobs, revenue, investments

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A report released by the University of Minnesota, in partnership with several local organizations suggests that changes to the downtown corridor of I-35 in could yield a significant boost for Duluth’s economy.

“Through some of our early research we did find out that the economic impact would be sizeable. There would be a great number of jobs that would be created during the construction process,” said John Bennett, with the Center for Community Vitality, a contributor to the University’s report.

Bennett says that economic factors are not the only consideration. Historically, community voices have been left out of urban planning in the United States.

“We wanted to find out what’s the impact going to be on the housing community and our neighborhoods in the downtown area,” said Bennett. “What’s the impact going to be on local businesses, what’s the impact going to be on tourists and the tourism community. And really just overall as a Duluthian, what do our community members want our city to look like in this area.”

Public feedback has identified improved safety for pedestrians as well as easier access to the lake, as two important pieces for a potential project.

The proposed project is in it’s very early planning stages but there are still a lot of factors to consider.

“When I look at the drawings and the map of the project to put in roundabouts where I35 is through downtown Duluth I notice a glaring exception that’s missing and that’s the railroad tracks for the North Shore Scenic Railroad,” said Ken Buehler, General Manager for the North Shore Scenic Railroad. “And the railroad is going to stay so you’ve got to accommodate it in your plans.”

Buehler says that the University has acknowledged his concerns regarding the current proposal and the railroad, and that he hopes it is taken into consideration in future phases of the project.