MnDOT Metro District completes numerous projects to improve the safety of the transportation system each year. These projects include providing bottleneck relief from merging vehicles, installing roundabouts to eliminate right-angle crashes, and optimizing traffic signals on highway corridors. Metro District continues to install cable median barrier and guardrail district-wide to improve safety and further the Department’s Toward Zero Death goals.
Metro District is implementing the new investment strategies identified in the 20 year Metro District Highway Investment Plan and the Metropolitan Council’s Transportation Policy Plan. These strategies include:
Active Traffic Management (ATM)
ATM applications smooth the effects of congestion and increase safety by maximizing vehicle throughput, overall capacity and travel time reliability, while decreasing primary and secondary incidents (crashes) and overall travel time. Examples of ATM applications include traveler information systems, incident response programs, dynamic signing and re-routing, dynamic shoulder lanes, hard shoulder running, speed harmonization, and queue warning.
Lower-Cost/High-Benefit projects (CMSP: Congestion Management Safety Plan)
Lower-cost high-benefit projects provide better traffic flow and some bottleneck relief by improving geometric design and addressing safety hazards. In some instances, these types of improvements require flexible designs to optimize the use of available pavement and existing rights of way. Metro District has implemented several very successful lower-cost/high-benefit projects, with additional projects under development. Some of these projects enhance capacity, such as the addition of short auxiliary lanes, while others focus on system management. Additional projects of this nature will be identified in the future through the Phase 3 Congestion Management System Plan (CMSP).
Strategic Capacity Enhancements/Managed Lane Vision
The Minneapolis/St. Paul metropolitan area is home to approximately 300 bus-only shoulder (BOS) miles. This amounts to more than 10 times the number of BOS miles in the rest of the nation combined. As the network has taken root and expanded, it has become a fundamental piece of the MnDOT’s congestion relief/mobility investment strategies. Partnerships among transportation agencies and officials contributed greatly to the success of BOS, ensuring that support and resources were available.
Priced managed lanes can provide a congestion-free travel option during peak rush hour periods by pricing these lanes at rates that maintain free flow conditions for all users. Buses, carpools and motorcycles can use the lanes for free during peak periods, while solo drivers have the option to use them for a fee. During non-peak periods, most segments are open to all motorists free of charge. Over time, the percentage of priced managed lanes as part of the Metropolitan Highway System is expected to increase.
MnPASS is the brand name for Minnesota’s congestion pricing system. Currently, MnPASS lanes are in operation on I-394 and on I-35W. The MnPASS lane on I-394 is always tolled, while the lanes on I-35W are only tolled during peak periods.
MnPASS offers a 21st century transportation solution with the goal of:
- Providing faster, safer, more reliable travel options for the public
- Improving the regional bus transit system
- Managing congestion more efficiently and cost-effectively
- Maximizing highway performance and people throughput for future generations
MnDOT and the Metropolitan Council are planning to develop and construct a network of MnPASS Lanes throughout the Twin Cities. The next MnPASS project is proposed on I-35E between I-694 and downtown St. Paul. Legislative, stakeholder and public outreach is underway to build understanding about MnPASS in general and the I-35E project specifically.
Additional MnPASS information is available at www.mnpass.org.
Metro District continues to implement innovative strategies to manage congestion. As part of the I-94 improvement project, Metro District is installing new Smart Lane signs. These electronic overhead signs provide real-time information to motorists to help them make informed decisions about their commute. Building on the success of the I-35W Smart Lane system, Smart Lane signs provide information such as advisory speeds to alert motorists of congestion ahead and can alert motorists to crashes and closed lanes ahead. The traffic management system is intended to reduce collisions and manage congestion. Signs will be installed between the Lowry Avenue Tunnel and John Ireland Blvd in summer 2012.
In the current era of fiscal uncertainties, continued traffic congestion and ongoing concerns for the safety of the traveling public, Metro District has developed several initiatives to help manage these important and varied priorities. For example, Metro District has developed a Major Project Scoping Committee to provide focus to project development efforts and optimize the use of increasingly scarce financial and human resources.
Metro District continues to strive for increased transparency in Metro Area decision-making. Metro District maintains a close partnership with the Metropolitan Council. From extensive public participation efforts at the project level to participation in legislative efforts, coalitions and participatory committees, Metro District strives to meet the ideal of the Continuing, Cooperative and Comprehensive 3C planning process.