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BLOOMINGTON, Minn. - Construction began Monday on a 4-month project to redesign the busy interchange of I-494 and 34th Avenue South in Bloomington.

The intersection is a vital link for air travelers to and from Terminal 2 Humphrey at Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport.

The project requires that Terminal 2 visitors exit 494 at 24th Avenue instead of 34th Avenue. Proceeding north, vehicles should go east on the frontage road (Airport Lane), follow it to 34th Avenue, then go left to Terminal 2. Travelers leaving Terminal 2 should reverse the directions.

A map of the detour is available at mspaiport.com as well as a link to animations of the new interchange design.

The $7.5 million project will reconfigure the interchange into a diverging diamond interchange. The relatively new technology reduces the number of traffic signals and serves to keep vehicles moving. It uses apattern that includes traffic moving from one side of roadway to the other, then back again. It is regarded as an improvement in safety as well.

"The 494 mainline is not affected by this project," explained Gary Warren, Metropolitan Airports Commission Vice President for Planning, Development and Environment. "All the work is being done, basically, under the interstate bridge and on the on-ramps and off-ramps."

Warren said the project is unique because the Hiawatha light rail line runs through the middle of the interchange.

"I am not aware of any other divergent diamond interchange project in the world or the country, for that matter, that actually has a train that goes through the middle," Warren said."It does pose some additional challenges because the last phase of the project actually requires a (temporary and partial) shutdown of the light rail itself."

The redo is a joint project by the MAC, MnDOT and the city of Bloomington. Funding is from a state Transportation Economic Development grant.

"Transportation projects would provide jobs in the long term, not just construction jobs, but also stimulate development, as in the South Loop area here and at the airport," said Warren.

The South Loop is the burgeoning business and hotel area between 24th and 34th Avenues, just south of I-494, near the Mall of America.

The project is to be complete in November of 2013.

To keep up with all traffic and construction projects, go to www.511mn.org.

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