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Study: What If We… Converted a Big Chunk of I-94?

Plus 'Tony Webster Bill' hobbles along, local chess prodigy crushes competition, and top rideshare destinations in today's Flyover news roundup.

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Seward and Cedar-Riverside, reimagined.

Welcome back to The Flyover, your daily digest of important, overlooked, and/or interesting Minnesota news stories.

Interstate Imagination

Through the '50s and '60s, the creation of I-94 carved St. Paul's historically Black Rondo neighborhood in half, leading to decades of displacement, disadvantages, and, generally, poor urban design. In 2016, MnDOT launched its "Rethinking I-94" initiative, and the ambitious project to determine the future of life between Hiawatha Avenue in Minneapolis and Marion Street in St. Paul is starting to feel real. Yesterday, a coalition of transportation advocacy orgs released an expansive report on the feasibility of a "highway-to-boulevard conversion" along that 7.5-mile stretch of road.

"The Rethinking I-94 project is one of the most consequential infrastructure projects in Twin Cities history and will impact multiple generations," says Carly Ellefsen with Our Streets Minneapolis. "[Our report] addresses how removing I-94 would work, what it might look like, and what the community benefits would be. It also provides recommendations to ensure that highway removal options are evaluated accurately and fairly by MnDOT."

It might not surprise you to learn the nonprofit's 90-page report, which studies the would-be creation of a multimodal, ground-level boulevard featuring dedicated bike and bus lanes, finds that such a reimagining would deliver economic, traffic, racial justice, and environmental wins. For all you pie-in-the-sky naysayers, they point to a successful urban highway removal project in Rochester, New York, and a similar proposal in Oakland, California, that appears to be gaining steam. We encourage you to give the report a read or, at the very least, take a gander at those very cool renderings.

So-Called "Tony Webster Bill" on Life Support

Many Racket readers are probably familiar with independent journalist Tony Webster, a one-time local who's now doing high-level book learnin' out in Wyoming. Webster is a FOIA junkie and a fierce advocate for exposing institutional secrecy. He's also rumored to be the target of a new Minnesota bill that would legally protect the government when it wrongly denies people public records. The good news, according to us, by way of Minnesota Reformer's Deena Winter? The sneakily written, DFLer-sponsored bill was pulled from a hearing this week after facing backlash from government watchdog groups; it's now reportedly "on the ropes."

“What they’re trying to do is prevent people like Tony Webster or members of the press or any other citizen from claiming damages (and) exemplary damages for blowing off a public data request,” Matt Ehling, a board member with Minnesota Coalition on Government Information, tells the Reformer. Webster, who's set to go to trial next month over an allegedly government-fumbled data request, is not a fan of the legislation he might've inspired. “Their behavior has been alarming,” he tells Winter. “Data governance at Hennepin County is a complete mess and changing laws to weaken accountability is not the solution.” Revisit our past conversations with Webster here and here.

Bravo, Local Teen Chess Prodigy!

Why aren't we seeing more Twin Cities headlines about Alice Lee? Last fall MPR wrote this lovely profile of the chess prodigy from North Oaks, though we had to rely on the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, of all places, to learn about the 14-year-old international chess master's victory Thursday in the American Cup. (It was hosted by the St. Louis Chess Club, hence that specific newspaper coverage.) Lee's win in the five-round marathon competition makes her one of the youngest folks ever to win a major chess title.

En route to her W, the young Minnesotan knocked off eight-time U.S. Women’s Chess champ Irina Krush, 40, who's widely believed to be the country's best active women’s chess player. Lee says “luck and nerves at the last minute" propelled her through the final tiebreaker round, per the Post-Dispatch; she was rewarded with $40,000, a luxury chess set, and a Tiffany bracelet. Click here for an incredibly technical breakdown of how Lee triumphed, and enjoy the interview below with our local chess powerhouse. Way to go, Alice!

Lyft Releases Most Popular Minneapolis Destinations

The Lyft PR department is in overdrive these days, working their darndest to paint the $8 billion crybaby tech firm as a victim who'd buckle under the burden of paying drivers the $15.57 per hour Minneapolis minimum wage. But credit where it's due, purely for infotainment purposes: The company's PR team just released a nifty bundle of info about its top 2023 pickup and dropoff locations around town. And the top five spots are *drumroll*...

  1. Target (multiple locations)
  2. Cowboy Jack's
  3. Minneapolis Convention Center
  4. The Saloon
  5. Target Field

The only real outlier, to my mind, is "Moose Bar & Grill (multiple locations)" at No. 15... surely they're not referring to the single location of beloved townie dive Moose On Monroe over in Northeast? In any case, Lyft also listed this intel by city ward, which we'll now parrot in order:

  • Ward 1: Target
  • Ward 2: M Health Fairview Medical Center
  • Ward 3: Hewing Hotel
  • Ward 4: Patrick Henry High School
  • Ward 5: Fillmore Minneapolis
  • Ward 6: Hennepin County Medical Center
  • Ward 7: Cowboy Jack's
  • Ward 8: Iron Door Pu [sic]
  • Ward 9: Abbot Northwest Hospital
  • Ward 10: Up-Down Minneapolis
  • Ward 11: Tailgate Sports Cafe [editor's note: one of Racket's most underrated bars]
  • Ward 12: Minnehaha Park
  • Ward 13: Khâluna

Wanna feel like a real, live journalist who relies on corporate-sourced data? You can view the entire trove of locations here—feel free to wield 'em in pursuit of your prefered ideological project.

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