Report: Congestion on Twin Cities metro area freeways holding steady as population increases
Several current road construction projects aim to reduce and manage congestion
ROSEVILLE, Minn. – Congestion on freeways in the Twin Cities metropolitan area is holding steady as the population of the seven-county metro area continues to increase, according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation.
The 2013 Metropolitan Freeway System Congestion Report—released today—shows the percentage of congested freeways decreased 1.5 percent last year.
Twin Cities metro area congestion rates and estimated population
- 2013—19.9 percent congested; population at 2.95 million
- 2012—21.4 percent; 2.91 million
- 2011—21 percent; 2.87 million
- 2010—21.5 percent; 2.85 million
“In addition to providing a safe and modern transportation system, one of our primary goals is to make sure the system is reliable and efficient,” said Charlie Zelle, MnDOT Commissioner. “By reducing congestion and increasing the reliability of our transportation system, we all will experience shorter travel times and cost savings through reduced fuel use.”
MnDOT completed several projects in 2012 aimed at improving traffic flow in the Twin Cities metro area, including:
- Highway 169/Interstate 494 interchange in the Bloomington, Edina and Eden Prairie—MnDOT used a performance-based design to rebuild the interchange with six ramps instead of the traditional eight. Crews also connected the north and south frontage roads under Highway 169 and removed traffic signals to reduce congestion. These improvements addressed more than 90 percent of motorists’ needs while saving approximately $30 million to $40 million in construction costs.
- Interstate 94 Smart Lanes—Crews installed Smart Lane technology to provide real-time travel alerts to I-94 motorists traveling between Minneapolis and St. Paul. The electronic signs display notices about crashes, merges, closed lanes and other advisories to help manage traffic.
- Interstate 694/Highway 10/Interstate 35W in Arden Hills and Mounds View—MnDOT completed a portion of the multiyear I-694 North Central project. Work included the construction of two new bridges to carry Highway 10 and Ramsey County Road 10 traffic over I-35W. Crews also widened the Lexington Avenue bridge over I-694. The bridge features new left turn lanes, an improved signal system, and widened ramps to and from the freeway to improve traffic flow.
“These projects provide a sampling of several strategies we have in place to manage congestion and address growing travel demand,” Zelle said.
Congestion management strategies
- Active Traffic Management—an advanced system of cameras, traffic sensors, ramp meters, overhead electronic message signs, Smart Lanes and real-time travel information including www.511mn.org and www.mndot.gov. MnDOT also operates a Freeway Incident Response Safety Team that minimizes congestion and prevents secondary crashes through the rapid response and removal of incidents.
- Strategic capacity enhancements—additional capacity improvements in certain locations including added traffic lanes, bus only shoulders, dynamic shoulder lanes or interchange capacity improvements.
- Low-cost, high-return improvements—projects that improve flow by relieving bottlenecks on freeways and arterials, improving geometric design and addressing safety hazards. Some of these improvements enhance capacity by adding short auxiliary lanes and others focus on system management. In some cases, flexible design principles are used to optimize the use of available pavement and right of way.
- MnPASS—express lanes that provide a congestion-free option during rush hour for those who ride express transit, carpool or pay an electronic fee. These lanes help move people more efficiently through a highway corridor by improving traffic flow in adjacent lanes and allowing for transit services to travel at higher speeds.
Several projects aimed at reducing congestion in the Twin Cities metro area are currently underway or scheduled to begin this year.
2014 congestion reducing projects
- Highway 610 in Maple Grove—Work will begin this fall to realign and extend Highway 610 from its current location at Hennepin County Road 81 and Elm Creek Boulevard to Interstate 94 in Maple Grove. The project will reduce congestion by increasing highway capacity. http://www.dot.state.mn.us/metro/projects/610west/index.html.
- Interstate 35E in St. Paul—Work on this multiyear project includes adding MnPASS lanes from downtown St. Paul to Little Canada Road. The lanes will offer reliable travel options for the public and can move 50 percent more traffic than regular lanes during congested rush hour periods. The new MnPASS lanes are scheduled to open in late 2015. http://www.dot.state.mn.us/metro/projects/35estpaul/mnpass.html.
- Highway 101 in Rogers—Crews are replacing the standard signalized intersection at Highway 101 and County Road 144 with a diverging diamond interchange to improve traffic flow. Diverging diamond interchanges cut overall traffic delays up to 60 percent. http://www.dot.state.mn.us/metro/projects/hwy101countyroad144/
- I-35E park-and-rides—Crews will begin constructing two new park-and-rides this summer and fall along I-35E in Lino Lakes and Vadnais Heights. The new park-and-rides will provide more transit options for north metro commuters and in turn, help reduce congestion.
To view the complete 2013 Metropolitan Freeway System Congestion Report, visit www.mndot.gov/rtmc/reports/congestionreport2013.pdf.
Editor’s note: Population figures provided by the Metropolitan Council.