MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — There’s a new sense of relief today for metro commuters, as one of the key exits into downtown is open once again.

The 11th Street/Grant Street exit into downtown Minneapolis from south of town on Interstate 35W is partially open after four months.

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During that time, the main exit to the biggest city in the state has been a big eyesore. Jeremy Carling lives close by in Loring Park, “It’s just like a mountain of mud basically. How anyone can ever get on there and what they would do with all that mud anyway, it’s crazy, right?”

The mammoth mound is part of the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s (MnDOT) $239 million, four-year project. It will replace bridges, add MNPASS lanes and increase traffic mobility.  Dave Aeikens with MnDOT says, “We’re making great progress. You can see things happening here, things opening, concrete going down and we’re moving forward. There’s a lot to do; there’s a big project and we’re going to continue to need everyone’s patience.”

Signs of improvement are two big re-openings Monday. The 11th Stree exit, and after 10 days, the ramp from Interstate 94 westbound to I-35W south is now open. The 11th Street exit, however, is down to one lane instead of three, and the exit out of downtown south on 35W is now open only to buses.

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Aeikens says, “It’s a milestone for the project. We’re 30 percent of the way done and we opened a lane into downtown, which we promised we’d do after four months.”

It’s far from complete, but closer than ever. Andre Gardiner of Minneapolis says, “The good thing is it’s opening back up.  I’m very solution-oriented, so no time focusing on problems. It’s opening up; good.”

MnDOT is asking people to take state roads and not take back roads, but if you do, they say please drive slowly.

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For a full update on the project, visit MnDOT’s website.

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield