Earlier this week, the Minnesota Department of Transportation shared with Duluth and Superior residents that the expected completion date for the Twin Ports Interchange Project (Can of Worms) had been revised and extended; while the majority of the work was expected to be finished by the end of the 2023 road construction season, now MNDOT is targeting 2024 for a completion date.

The news was shared during the public meeting that happened on June 28.  As part of the explanation process, the state agency discussed the way that pandemic-related worker and supply shortages from vendors had played a role.

But that's not the only reason the end date for the multi-year project was extended into the future.  MNDOT is reporting that two design elements that had originally been part of the plans - but had been dropped due to "escalating overall project costs" - have now been added back in.

The re-addition of the design elements will be tied to the way MNDOT will utilize federal funds.

According to an article in the Superior Telegram [paywall], the Minnesota Department of Transportation has added back in "U.S. Highway 53 bridges toward Piedmont and the Miller Hill Mall, and an interchange on Garfield Avenue leading into and out of the port".  Both of those design elements were part of the original plans for the project. However, they were pulled as work started.

Since that time, MNDOT has found a way to utilize outside federal funding:

"Because of escalating overall project costs, Highway 53 work had been delayed originally until 2027, and Garfield Avenue until 2028.  But the Minnesota Department of Transportation is leveraging its part of federal infrastructure funding to make the work happen in conjunction with the ongoing project through the neighborhood."

Along with extending the completion date for the Twin Ports Interchange project, the newly re-added design elements will also revise the final budget.  Estimates for the added work near $167.7 million.  Added to the "existing $343 million" dollar price tag, the new "full project total" is now $510 million - or more than half a billion dollars.

As stated above, the funding for that additional budget amount would come from federal sources.  "Minnesota is ticketed to receive $240 million per year for five years from the bipartisan infrastructure legislation passed in 2021".

Besides Twin Ports drivers, industry and shipping will benefit most from the design elements being re-added back in.  Those ramps on Garfield Avenue will make it easier for the large scale items (like wind energy components) to be moved in and out of the Port of Duluth.  MNDOT cites the "completion of the Garfield Avenue ramps....[as] 'critical' for oversize and overweight loads".

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