Minneapolis City Council Member Jeremy Schroeder hosted MnDOT representatives for a community discussion about the ways the agency is incorporating environmental considerations into the 35W reconstruction project. Council Member Schroeder shared the following thoughts about what he learned.

I was happy to host MnDOT staff for a recent community discussion at Pearl Park about innovative ways crews are reducing waste, limiting pollution, and looking out for water quality as part of the massive 35W project. While this work was always going to be disruptive to Minneapolis residents in some ways, I am grateful for these environmental considerations that limit the adverse public health and climate effects of a large-scale effort like this. As an elected official who represents communities located near the 35W project area – and as a Minneapolis resident myself – I am grateful for MnDOT’s willingness to prioritize strategies that not only support sustainability but also save taxpayers money.

Did you know, for example, that the old concrete is crush on site and reused as gravel? With over 125,000 tons of this aggregate base required for the 35W reconstruction project, this has been a huge help in reducing diesel truck trips in and out of our community. This reuse practice eliminates the need for diesel dump trucks to travel back and forth to a gravel pit 35 miles away in Apple Valley. Engineers estimate crushing material on-site has saved 34,750 gallons of diesel fuel and eliminated 243,250 miles that would have otherwise been driven by semi trucks on metro roadways. That’s great news in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and air quality. Plus, MnDOT reports that these days, this is their lowest-cost option.

In addition, protecting water quality is a key consideration in this project. Runoff from the site travels through a network of pipes that dump into the Mississippi River, one of our most valuable natural resources. To prevent contamination and sediment from entering the river, MnDOT is committed to making sure its crews and subcontractors take appropriate steps to sift contaminants out of water that pools at the site after rainfall, as the snow melts, and as a result of construction work. I represent many Minneapolis residents who count water quality among their top issues, and appreciate MnDOT’s careful attention to water issues in and around the 35W site – even though managing water can be tedious and time-consuming.

Getting a better understanding of how sustainability factors into MnDOT’s work was clarifying. It was heartening to hear about how the agency is looking internally at ways to promote sustainability in its operations and lead by example. It’s great to know the City of Minneapolis can count MnDOT as a partner in reducing overall greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector as well – this is one of the agency’s areas of focus, along with improving the resiliency of our state’s transportation system in the face of climate change.

I look forward to thinking creatively about incorporating these values into future projects that require partnership between the City of Minneapolis and MnDOT. If you weren’t able to make it to the discussion I hosted with MnDOT staff, I encourage you to reach out the project team to learn more.