Duluth Urban Design Project: Highway 61 Revisited

What better time could there be for sharing grand expensive visions than during a pandemic, when Duluth and virtually all municipalities are under tremendous financial duress?

Hey, ideas are just ideas, right?

A group of designers and unofficial community planners known as the Duluth Waterfront Collective has been working on a “what-if?” project called Highway 61 Revisited. The basic task is to redesign the I-35 corridor where it splits Downtown Duluth and the Canal Park Business District.

Check out the concept at highway61duluth.com.

The problem being addressed, according to the website, is that “I-35 acts as a wall between Duluth’s most visited attractions and its downtown. This wall backs up traffic in adjacent areas, frightens bikers, keeps residents away from Lake Superior, and makes it nearly impossible for persons with disabilities to cross. This wall also acts as an economic barrier, in which tourism is primarily limited to the lake side of the interstate.”

The proposed solution is to slow down traffic from 50 m.p.h. to about 35 m.p.h. on a roughly one-mile stretch of the interstate by creating the Lake Superior Parkway. The change would “provide bump-out space for businesses, wide sidewalks with landscaped borders, three lanes of traffic, a landscaped median with stormwater processing capabilities, a rail line for the North Shore Scenic Railroad (and potential for a future street car line), three lanes of traffic, more landscaping, and a separated recreation trail with designated space for bikers and pedestrians.”

Basically, the goal is to pull together the downtown area and Canal Park instead of leaving it disjointed by the interstate. The parkway would have three lanes going in each direction, one more than the present interstate, and would get rid of ramps, overpasses and Railroad Street to free up space for parks and new development.

It should be noted the plan is not a suggestion to tear down the existing I-35 downtown corridor anytime soon, but rather to present ideas for decades into the future when the interstate will need to be replaced.

Below are breakouts from the map at the top of the post.

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