Minnesota Department of Transportation

511 Travel Info

Project selection

Increasing the transparency of how we select highway construction projects

How MnDOT scores and selects major capacity expansion projects in the Twin Cities

Most significant state highway capacity expansion and mobility projects (for example, converting a signalized intersection into an interchange or adding lanes to a freeway) are now selected through MnDOT’s competitive programs like Corridors or Commerce or the Transportation Economic Development Program. However, the 20-Year Minnesota State Highway Investment Plan (MnSHIP) does allocate some funding to address congestion relief and improve mobility on the state highway system.

When developing pavement and bridge projects, MnDOT looks for opportunities to make targeted improvements to address safety and improve traffic flow. In some instances, larger investments are necessary. The following types of projects are scored and selected through a separate process from the main pavement and bridge project selection processes:

  • The addition of one lane mile or more (MnPASS, general purpose or auxiliary)
  • New or significantly modified interchanges
  • Any project requiring an Environmental Assessment or full Environmental Impact Statement
  • Any project that includes a capacity expansion element costing $10 million or more (the cost of the capacity is $10 million, not the total project cost)

Projects initiated by cities and counties on the state highway system meeting one of the criteria above that receive funding through the Metropolitan Council’s Regional Solicitation or federal competitive programs like INFRA or BUILD do not need be to be scored to receive MnDOT match funds. They are considered selected through that competitive process.

Project identification

Capacity expansion and other major investments to reduce congestion and improve mobility in the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area are identified and prioritized through the regional planning process. Specific policy direction for mobility investments comes from the region’s Transportation Policy Plan (TPP) and MnDOT’s statewide transportation plans.

The Metropolitan Council (the region’s Metropolitan Planning Organization) and MnDOT, along with other partner agencies and stakeholders, evaluate and prioritize various issues and needs related to congestion and mobility as part of region-wide system studies. Examples include the Principal Arterial Intersection Conversion Study and the Freeway System Interchange Study.

With each update to the Transportation Policy Plan, the Metropolitan Council decides which priority needs and project areas identified in the system studies to include in the 20-year timeframe of the plan. The needs and project areas listed in either the current or increased revenue scenario of the TPP are the list of eligible candidate projects to be included in the region’s four year Transportation Improvement Program and the State Transportation Improvement Program or the 10-year Capital Highway Investment Plan.

Scoring criteria

In cooperation with the Metropolitan Council, MnDOT uses the following criteria to score candidate projects. Major capacity expansion project selection decisions in the metro must be approved by the Metropolitan Council for inclusion in the TPP, as required by federal law.

Measure Points Available Scoring Rubric
Priority in regional plans and studies 50 Priority given in relevant regional planning studies. Examples:
MnPASS System Study:
Tier 1 or 2 – 50 points
Tier 3 – 30 points*
Principal Arterial Intersection Conversion Study:
High Priority – 30 points*
Medium Priority – 20 points*
Freeway System Interchange Study (ongoing study):
Tier 1 – 50 points
Tier 2 – 30 points*
*+20 points if Non-MnDOT funding >1/3 of the total project cost
Asset Management 25 Forecasted pavement Ride Quality Index:
≤ 2.0 – 25 points
2.1-2.5 – 15 points
2.6-3.0 – 5 points
>3.0 – 0 points
AND/OR bridge substructure, superstructure and/or deck NBI Rating:
≤ 4 – 25 points
5 – 15 points
6 – 5 points
>6 – 0 points
Return on Investment 25 Benefit-Cost Ratio:
<1 – 0 points
1.0-1.49 – 5 points
1.5-1.99 – 10 points
2.0-2.49 – 15 points
2.5-2.99 – 20 points
≥ 3.0 – 25 points

Factors not included in the score

MnDOT and the Metropolitan Council consider a wide range of factors when selecting projects. These include considerations specific to individual projects as well as system level performance targets and guidance. Not all are included in the score. Examples of other factors include:

  • Geographic balance of projects
  • Timing of adjacent projects to avoid construction on parallel corridors
  • Available budget in any given year

Project changes that require rescoring

Most scoping decisions for capacity projects would not require rescoring, but the following thresholds would require an updated score:

  • Cost of capacity expansion element(s) increases by more than 20%
  • The scope changes would likely meaningfully change the benefit-cost ratio (i.e. change in travel time savings or safety benefits great enough to affect the benefit-cost ratio rounded to the nearest whole number)
  • The nature of the project changes (i.e. switching from a MnPASS lane to a general purpose lane)