It's one of the busiest traffic corridors in Duluth besides I-35.  Central Entrance (a part of Highway 194) is a vital link that connects the downtown area to everything that goes on "over the hill" - from the mall area to Hermantown and beyond.

It's also going to look a whole lot different within the next three to five years.

Officials with the Minnesota Department of Transportation are starting to share their plans for the stretch of road the runs from Trinity Road to Mesaba Avenue. And, they want your input along the way.

MNDOT plans to spend between $12.5 and $16.5 million on the work that's currently planned for the shovels to start in 2026. This fall they're focusing on what they call the Engagement step of the process - where they announce the intention of the work and solicit the initial feedback and comments. Then they'll spend next year working on traffic studies and concept development, with a pre-design coming in 2024, the final design in 2025, and the start of the two year project in 2026-2027.

So what will a redesigned Central Entrance look like through that area once it's done?

Without question, the stretch of Central Entrance between Trinity Road and Mesaba Avenue has saw a lot of development in the past few years.  As someone who's driven that stretch (and worked in an office located on the road for 20 years), I can tell you from personal experience that the number of daily vehicles - and the congestion that goes along with them - has increased dramatically.

According to MNDOT's initial release about the project plans, "[t]he final project will improve traffic flow and pedestrian safety throughout the corridor".  Specifically, they want to also improve access to businesses for the drivers who use that route.  It goes without saying that the original designers of the road couldn't have imagined the business growth and development that's occurred within that stretch since.

Here's how MNDOT describes the current "Existing Conditions" of Central Entrance:

"The corridor has poor pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure and bus stops that lack adequate accessibility and amenities.  It also has multiple driveway accesses that create conflicts between vehicles and pedestrians.  Combining these challenges with high vehicle speeds creates an unsafe place to walk or bike.  It also discourages development and redevelopment along the corridor."

While there is a general focus on improving pedestrian and bike modes, the ultimate plans will play a large role in traffic in general.  As MNDOT concludes, "[b]ecause of its role in the roadway network, Central Entrance is important for all modes of transportation".

As MNDOT embarks on the beginning of the timeline - and haven't even begun the design process, they have have shared that the final design should help maintain that Central Entrance is "a vibrant gateway to Duluth".

In advance of all of this, MNDOT is inviting everyone to what they're billing as a "Community Kick Off Event" - Thursday, November 3 from 4:00 PM until 6:00 PM at their headquarters - located right at the tail end of where the project will occur - at 1123 Mesaba Avenue.  In addition, they have a survey that you can fill out online to provide your commentary and input. There are two forms - one for businesses and another for the general public.

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