Rondo was one of only 45 projects funded by the U.S. DOT as part of its “Reconnecting Communities” effort

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By Amy Felegy, MPR and Tim Nelson, Sahan Journal. Originally published March 1, 2023.

This story comes to you from MPR News through a partnership with Sahan Journal.

Nonprofit community group ReConnect Rondo is working to reestablish the neighborhood, business and cultural ties on either side of Interstate 94 in St. Paul, which divided the historic Rondo neighborhood during the post World War II interstate building boom.

Those efforts have included a proposal to build a deck over part of the interstate and restore some of the amenities razed during road construction—and it’s getting $2 million to do so.

A rendering for the land bridge, an idea which would attempt to connect the Rondo community that was split in two by the construction of I-94. Credit: Courtesy of ReConnect Rondo

Federal authorities on Tuesday announced the planning grant funded by the 2021 infrastructure law. Rondo was one of 45 projects the U.S. Department of Transportation funded as part of its effort “to reconnect communities” torn apart by the building of the federal highway system and other transportation projects.

“The timing was fortuitous,” ReConnect Rondo Executive Director Keith Baker said in statement. “But it is also incredibly validating to see the federal government take responsibility for the lasting harm rendered on communities all these years later.”

The goal of what’s called the land bridge is to reconnect the vibrant community split in two by the freeway’s construction in the 1950s and 60s, destroying around 700 homes and 300 businesses, according to Baker’s group.

ReConnect Rondo says the land bridge could add approximately:

  • 500 new housing units
  • 1,000 residents
  • 1,500 jobs
  • $4 million in city revenue every year

The bridge would serve as a cap over the part of the road, between Chatsworth Street and Grotto Street, that encompasses what used to be the entire Rondo neighborhood.

The bridge would serve as a cap over the part of the road, between Chatsworth Street and Grotto Street, that encompasses what used to be the entire Rondo neighborhood. Credit: Caroline Yang for MPR News (file photo)

In an earlier MPR News interview, Baker said the project would rely on a combination of public and private funds, and could cost more than $450 million to complete.

Previous proposals from other advocacy groups included ripping out the entire stretch of that freeway and replacing it with various modes of travel.

The federal grant adds to $500,000 in state and city planning money to be used for environmental impact analysis, traffic studies and community outreach.

The money will also help coordinate with the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s ReThinking I-94, a project to make needed repairs to the aging infrastructure, while creating methods to reduce further harms caused by the main east-west artery through the Twin Cities.

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ReConnect Rondo Technical Advisory Team:

  • David Juliff, Be Civil, Inc.
  • Khani Sahebjam, SRF Consulting Group
  • John Maczko, SRF Consulting Group
  • Kent Arhenholtz, Kaskaskia Engineering Group
  • Brenda Thomas, KLJ, Inc
  • Marcus Thomas, Bolton & Menk
  • Scott McBride, Bolton & Menk
  • Marcell Walker, Bolton & Menk
  • Veronica Burt, 600 Strategies, Inc.
  • Björgvin Sævarsson, YORTH Group
  • Katie Eggers, YORTH Group
  • Jim Erkel, Retired Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy (MCEA)
  • Brian Isaacson, Ramsey County
  • Diem Van Groth, Strategic Consultant