Millions of residents make millions of trips on the region’s highway system every day for commerce, work commutes, recreational travel, and the everyday business of residents’ lives. This system is also essential for transporting freight. Trucks move nearly 75% of all the region’s freight, accounting for more than 80% of the total monetary value of all freight moved in the region.
There are 914 miles of interstate highways that support travel across Minnesota, connecting people to the places they want to go. While only 12% of that highway system exists within the region, metro area highways carry nearly 50% of the annual miles of vehicle travel across the statewide system (MnDOT).
There are, however, social, and environmental costs. These costs range from impacts to local communities during the project construction, to climate change, public health, and environmental effects from using the system. Through context-sensitive designs and targeted investments, the region can lessen these costs and impacts wherever possible. Advancements in technology like electric vehicles, along with strategies to reduce vehicle miles traveled also help alleviate these effects.
The region’s highway system is well developed and classified into categories based on function. Principal Arterials are freeways and other highways with the highest travel speeds and carrying capacity, like Interstates 35 and 94, and U.S. Highway 10. The A-minor arterials are intended to provide a lower level of movement than the principal arterials, but provide more direct access to other roadways and land uses. Examples of A-minor arterials include Minnesota State Highway 51/Snelling Avenue in Ramsey County and Minnesota State Highway 5 in Carver County.
There are 17,700 miles of roads in the region. Principal and A-minor arterial roads make up only 2,700 of those miles (15%) yet they carry 80% of the region’s motor vehicle traffic, including trucks and buses. Counties and cities in the region own and manage most of the A-minor system and a smaller part of the principal arterial system. The remaining are local roads or carry fewer vehicles, but they are still essential to the transportation system. Local roads reflect the commitment to and investment in our transportation system by the region’s counties, cities, and towns.