MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — With ceremonial scoops of dirt, a long-awaited freeway improvement begins. MnDOT is about to begin reconstruction of Interstate 494 in Plymouth, eliminating a troubling bottleneck by adding a third lane.

Local community leaders say the project will help improve commerce, ease congestion and reduce accidents.

“This project has always been something we’ve been working on,” Plymouth Mayor Kelli Slavik said.

The $86 million, 3-year undertaking includes other major upgrades in addition to the added lane. From new bridges and access ramps, to concrete replacement between I-394 and the Fish Lake interchange.

“Between the bridge and pavement infrastructure project we’re doing out here, it makes it a great day for MnDOT,” engineer Scott McBride said.

But days are about to get a lot rougher for commuters. With night and weekend lane closures expected over the next three summers, commuters will have a slower time traveling through the already congested corridor.

And for commuters like Melinda Young, that means more time in traffic and less time to golf.

“I think it will be worth it in three years after it’s done, but the three years until then you’re going to add even more time to your day,” Young said.

Motorist William Douglas agreed.

“We have no time but to wait. If it was my call it would be done like they did that 35W bridge,” Douglas said.

Alternate routes during the construction will add more traffic onto the nearby north/south Highways 169 and 100. However, both of those routes are already filled to rush-hour capacity.

Still, drivers know the next three summers of roadwork will be a small price to pay, for a big improvement.

“You just have to keep the frustration level low and keep the end in sight,” Kristine Smith said, smiling.

The reason the reconstruction was only recently approved is that the money just became available to pay for it. It was made possible because of money saved on The Red Wing and St. Croix River crossings.