For years, Ramsey County identified the interchange at Rice Street (CSAH 49) and Interstate 694 (I-694) as a top-priority interchange for reconstruction. I-694 is a critical regional commuter and trucking route and Rice Street is one of few north-south arterial corridors in the County. Rice Street crosses I-694 in the stretch with only two lanes in each direction, a bottle neck congested for an average of seven hours per day. With the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s (MnDOT) construction of a third general-purpose lane in each direction, the County, with support from the cities of Shoreview, Little Canada, and Vadnais Heights, planned to reconstruct the Rice Street/I-694 interchange.
The purpose of this project was to address the operational issues at the I-694/Rice Street interchange. Studies showed that, by 2040, traffic operations at the existing interchange would fail as vehicle volumes were projected to go up by thousands. The Rice Street interchange was also recognized as a hindrance and a safety issue for people walking, rolling, bicycling, and taking transit. In addition, a well-designed interchange that supports better access for people using all modes of travel would increase the economic development potential of underutilized property within the interchange area – particularly the former Ramsey County Public Works site in the southwest quadrant of the interchange.
SEH worked closely with the County and partner agency stakeholders to develop and evaluate several alternatives for consideration through the complex freeway project development process. All alternatives considered proposed closing several existing accesses on Rice Street per the County’s Access Management policy. This segment of Rice Street included several closely spaced intersections and accesses which impeded traffic flow and introduced multiple safety conflicts.
Following a robust outreach effort with community stakeholders and directly impacted property owners, the project team selected a recommended alternative. In addition to being the lowest cost option, a primary advantage of the recommended alternative, an offset single-point interchange, was that it replaced four closely spaced signalized intersections with three roundabouts. As a result, the alternative solved the existing and forecasted traffic operation problems and also improved pedestrian and bicyclist safety by slowing traffic speeds, via the roundabouts.
- 2020 Project of the Year Award | Minnesota County Engineers Association (MCEA)
I-694/Rice Street Interchange
Cities of Shoreview, Little Canada and Vadnais Heights, Minnesota
- Civil engineering
- Construction services
- Environmental engineers and scientists
- Heavy civil
- Highway design
- Mechanical/electrical engineering
- Natural resource scientists
- Structural engineering
- Traffic engineering
- Transportation planning
- Water resources engineering
- Facilitated locally led interchange project process with multiagency support
- Close coordination with key stakeholders
- Developed several innovative alternatives for consideration to address needs
- Improved safety, access, and operations for all modes, all abilities, and all users
- Enhanced opportunities for economic development
- Supports Ramsey County’s All Abilities Transportation Network goals