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In downtown Minneapolis, key stretch of I-35W to close for the weekend

MINNEAPOLIS — It's a big weekend for sports events in downtown Minneapolis, but the Minnesota Department of Transportation is shutting down part of Interstate 35W — a key access point to the city — anyway.

The closure is necessary for the demolition of the Franklin Avenue bridge, and Transportation Commissioner Charlie Zelle said the work cannot wait.

"The redesign of the I-35W corridor through Minneapolis is a very complex project, and the work we accomplish this weekend is necessary to keep it on schedule and any delay would add significant costs to the project," Zelle said in a Wednesday statement.

Interstate 35W will close in both directions between Interstate 94 and Minnesota 62 (Crosstown) in Minneapolis, from Friday night, Sept. 29, to Monday morning.

In addition to the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon on Sunday between Minneapolis and St. Paul, there's also a University of Minnesota football game Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium; Twins games Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Target Field; a Vikings game Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium; and—for those trying to leave Minneapolis—the Wild at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul on Saturday.

That road segment of 35W is already the busiest in all of Minnesota, with one portion seeing an average of 225,000 vehicles per day, according to 2016 data from MnDOT.

The potential traffic jam is so big even Gov. Mark Dayton got involved Wednesday.

"I have spoken with MnDOT Commissioner Charlie Zelle to express my serious concerns about the potential disruptions, caused by this highway closure, on so many Minnesotans," Dayton said in a statement. He said he directed the department to ensure the information and alternative routes were publicized.

Motorists are encouraged to use Interstate 394 and Minnesota 100 and 62 as detours. The interstate will close the following weekend as well (Oct. 6-9).

The Portland Avenue bridge over I-94 near the I-35W interchange also will be closed to motorists beginning Saturday morning, but will remain open to pedestrians, bicyclists, and emergency vehicles. Weather permitting, the bridge should reopen in late November. Motorists will be detoured from 15th Street to Chicago Avenue to Franklin Avenue.

"We have been planning this work for several years, and have completed a number of other projects to help reduce the traffic congestion this will cause," Zelle said in a statement. "In the Twin Cities metro area, we are dealing with a transportation system that is aging and needs significant preservation work. We regret that we will cause some Minnesotans significant inconveniences by closing the roadway this weekend."

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