Downtown I-35 Redesign: Significant Boost to Duluth’s Economy Possible

BBER study shows rightsizing I-35 could pay big dividends.

Rightsizing of I-35 through downtown Duluth has the potential to infuse anywhere from over $500 million to over $4.5 billion to Duluth’s economy from the reuse of the available land for private investment, according to a report by the Labovitz School of Business and Economics’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research (BBER).

Additionally, a one-year redesign construction project at a cost of approximately $50 million to I-35 could support about 450 jobs, provide labor income of $29 million, contribute nearly $39 million to the study area’s GDP, and produce nearly $74 million in spending.  

The study is in response to the growing community interest in the highway’s redesign, including that from the Duluth Waterfront Collective and the Duluth City Council. 

The BBER report takes into consideration economic effects of highway removal and rightsizing projects throughout the U.S., results of interviews and surveys with stakeholders, case studies of five similar highway rightsizing projects, and a summary of the feasibility of the Duluth project. The research team also tabled at the Downtown Duluth Sidewalk Days and attained feedback from 362 people. 

“I have been so impressed by the level of engagement and interest we encountered from the Duluth community throughout this project,” said Monica Haynes, BBER director. “Our team received feedback from more than 500 stakeholders and community members as part of the project. It’s clear that the community cares deeply about the future of downtown Duluth.”  

The report, “The Economic Effects of the Potential I-35 Conversion in Downtown Duluth” can be found on the U of M’s Digital Conservancy website. A visual summary of the results has also been designed.