By Bill Hudson

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It has been nothing less than a huge pain for Interstate 35W motorists driving between downtown Minneapolis and the south suburbs.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation’s four-year reconstruction project began in the summer of 2017 and is now one-quarter complete. Come Monday morning, however, commuters will have cause to celebrate as a bit of the pain and inconvenience goes away.

All summer long, commuters trying to get in and out of downtown Minneapolis have been forced into alternatives. That’s due to the closures at the 11th Street and 5th Avenue ramps, which are being reconstructed.

“It’s going to take three years? I hope when it’s done, it is worth it,” said motorist Lala Bryant.

You can judge the initial improvement on Monday morning when one lane of the 11th Street ramp into downtown reopens.

“At 5 a.m. Monday, we kind of will hit a milestone as we’re going to be reopening one lane into downtown Minneapolis,” said David Aeikens, MnDOT spokesperson. “We’ve had that shutdown for four months.”

Another improvement that is noticeable to motorists is along westbound Interstate 94 between Chicago Avenue and Nicollet. Traffic there made the switch onto new ribbons of concrete Thursday.

Southbound Interstate 35 traffic will do the same Monday morning. But before it does, a full shutdown of I-35W is needed over the weekend to build the temporary crossover at 24th Street.

“We need the time to make the changes you’ll see at 5 a.m. on Monday,” said Aeikens.

Eleven new bridges are being rebuilt from downtown to 46th Street. Concrete piers are being poured to support concrete beams for the newly redesigned westbound I-94 flyover ramp.

Still, for the foreseeable future, restricted lanes through the construction site will make navigating the project tricky and tight.

“That one lane should help a lot,” Bryant said. “I just hope it has enough room.”

“We’ve got a lot of work to do, we’re on schedule, we’re on track,” Aeikens said.

There are an estimated 40,000 vehicles per day motoring through the interchange of I-35 and I-94.

With that volume of traffic, the newest improvements can’t handle the demand for everyone to use those newly opened routes.

Aeikens says it’s important that motorists continue using their alternative routes.

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