Minnesota Road Network

By | October 13, 2022

Minnesota has a very dense network of roads, a result of the intensive cultivation of the land. The countryside is divided into a 1 by 1 mile grid, so there is basically a north-south or east-west road every mile, except in the hilly and wooded northeast of the state. Minnesota’s freeways concentrate on the Twin Cities region, with no freeways to the north. Important secondary roads have been developed as 2×2 divided highway.

Road management

The state highway authority is the Minnesota Department of Transportation, abbreviated MnDOT (pronounced Minn-dot ). [1] Originating in the State Highway Commission established in 1905, of the western states, highway development in Minnesota was a state matter relatively early on. In 1917 this became the Department of Highways. In 1976, several transportation agencies were merged into the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

  • Bittranslators: State overview of Minnesota, including geography, economy, population and history as well as introduction to major cities of Minnesota.

Interstate Highways

Minnesota’s Interstate Highway Network.

Several Interstate Highways cross the state. Interstate 35 is the primary north-south route and in the Twin Cities splits into Interstate 35W through Minneapolis and Interstate 35E through St. Paul. I-35 terminates in the port city of Duluth. Interstate 90 forms an east-west route through the far south of the state, but does not serve significant cities. Interstate 94 forms a diagonal east-west route through the Twin Cities to Moorhead on the border with North Dakota, this is in conjunction with Interstate 29 in North Dakota the main route to Canada. I-29 in North Dakota parallels the Minnesota border a short distance.

In addition, there are some urban auxiliary routes of the system of Interstate Highways. Interstate 394 forms a short east-west route from Minneapolis to the western suburbs, while Interstate 494 and Interstate 694 form the Twin Cities ring road. Interstate 535 is a short highway between Duluth and Superior, Wisconsin.

  • Deluxesurveillance: Nickname of Minnesota as The North Star State. Also covers geography, history, economy, politics and administration of the state.

US Highways

Numerous US Highways traverse Minnesota. US 2 forms an east-west route through the north of the state and is largely a 2×2 divided highway due to the lack of a freeway in this area. US 10 runs mostly parallel to I-94, but is part freeway in the Twin Cities. US 12 runs east-west through the center of the state, through the Twin Cities. In the west of the Twin Cities, US 12 is part freeway. US 14 is more secondary in character, but does serve the southern city of Mankato. The US 52 west of St. Paul largely coincides with I-94, but is of greater importance further south, with a stretch of freeway in St. Paul and is the main outcrop for the city of Rochester in the southeastern part of the state, serving a freeway with 2×3 lanes.

The other US Highways run primarily north-south, with most of them being rural in character and of importance to through traffic only because western Minnesota has no freeways running north-south, although the routes are of little importance for long-haul traffic. US 53 has some importance as an alternative route to Canada, from Duluth to International Falls. US 63, US 65 and US 69 run only in the far south of the state and are of little importance for traffic within Minnesota. US 71, on the other hand, forms a nearly 700-mile north-south route through the west and north of the state. The US 75 runs close to the western border of Minnesota and has little through-traffic because Interstate 29 parallels South Dakota and North Dakota and handles through traffic.

US 169 forms a fairly long north-south route, it is the main link between Mankato and Minneapolis and from Minneapolis to the Iron Range, and has been developed as a freeway over a considerable part of the Twin Cities. US 212 forms a somewhat more secondary east-west route that ends southwest of Minneapolis and is partly developed as a freeway in the southwestern suburbs of the Twin Cities. US 218 has a secondary character in the south of the state.

State Highways

Minnesota has an extensive network of state highways, which are also known as Trunk Highways. Minnesota is the only state to use this term. The state highways have no specific road numbering, the numbers are somewhat randomly assigned. The numbering runs mainly from 1 to 336, with a few higher numbers. State Highway 1 is the longest route in Minnesota at 557 kilometers. Several dozen routes are longer than 100 kilometers.

The road numbering of state highways was introduced in 1920, the numbering then ran from 1 to 67, although some numbers were skipped. In 1934 and 1949, two major expansions of the state highway network followed, mainly by asphalting the grid in rural areas in the west and south of the state. A number of routes were added in the 1950s, 1960s and 1980s. Since then, new state highways have been added sporadically to the network, and several routes have been deleted since the 1990s.

Some state highways have been designed as freeways, especially in the Twin Cities.

  • MN 36: Roseville – Oakdale
  • MN 60: Mankato
  • MN 62: Eden Prairie – Mendota
  • MN 77: Apple Valley – Minneapolis
  • MN 100: Bloomington – Brooklyn Center
  • MN 101: Rogers – Elk River
  • MN 280: Minneapolis – Roseville
  • MN 610: Coon Rapids – Maple Grove

Toll roads

There are no general toll roads in Minnesota. There are express lanes on Interstate 35E in St. Paul, Interstate 35W in Minneapolis and Interstate 394 in Minneapolis. These have an electronic toll collection through MnPASS.


I-35 at Duluth.

Minnesota was one of the first states to take the initiative to build roads at the state level, a law passed in 1898 to make that possible, but it didn’t come into effect until 1905 with the creation of the State Highway Commission. In 1912, Minnesota’s highway network was divided into three classes, state highways, county roads, and township roads. In 1917, the State Highway Commission was transformed into the Department of Highways, necessitated by the Federal Aid Road Act of 1916 that mandated the creation of a Department of Highways to qualify for federal funding.

In 1920, a network of 70 trunk highways was established. Minnesota is one of the few states to call this a ‘Trunk Highway’. This also introduced the first road numbering system. In the 1920s a fairly extensive network of main roads had already been paved, especially roads to and from the Twin Cities. The condition was worse in western Minnesota, in 1928 there were only a few short stretches of paved road in the countryside in western and southwest Minnesota, even the US Highways were still predominantly gravel. In the northeast more roads were paved, although not yet as far as the border with Canada.

The network of paved roads grew less in the 1930s in Minnesota than in other states. In 1939 most of the trunk highways in the countryside were still unpaved, only the main US Highways were asphalted. The longest paved road was US 52, which was paved statewide by 1939. Also, US 61 was asphalted between Minneapolis and Duluth. US 14 and US 16 were nearly completely paved as east-west routes through the south of the state.

During the Second World War, the road network was hardly upgraded further because only investments were made that were directly involved in the warfare. Plans were made in 1944 to expand the road network after the war. In the second half of the 1940s, many roads were tarred, often with a thin bitumen layer over a gravel pavement. By 1949, all US Highways were paved, sometimes with only a thin top layer. The trunk highways were mainly provided with such a thin layer over gravel. In the 1950s, the asphalt road network was expanded considerably and previously thin top layers were provided with a regular asphalt pavement that was more suitable for heavy traffic.

The first highways opened to traffic in 1959 or 1960, mostly bridges over the Mississippi, from which the connecting highways opened later. Also in 1960, the first sections of I-90, the Austin bypass, and I-94, the Moorhead bypass on the border with North Dakota, opened.. Construction of the highway network in Minnesota was slower than in other Midwestern states, with all three main Interstate Highways still having significant missing links in the late 1960s, many of which had not been filled until the latter half of the 1970s. I-35 was open to traffic from 1976, although I-35E in St. Paul was not completed until 1990 and the extension in Duluth opened in 1992. I-90 was through-going from 1978, when the last link west of Albert Lea opened. This was actually the first completed Interstate Highway in the state of Minnesota. In 1979, I-94 was open in rural areas west of Minneapolis, but the last link did not open until 1983 in Minneapolis and east of St. Paul in 1985. I-494 was also not completed until about 1985.

Minnesota Road Network