Minnesota Department of Transportation

511 Travel Info

News Release

Oct. 4, 2017

Traffic congestion in the Twin Cities Metro area holds steady

ROSEVILLE, Minn. – Traffic on Twin Cities’ metropolitan area freeways held steady this past year, as congestion increased just .3 percent from 2015 to 2016 according to a Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) Metropolitan Freeway System Congestion Report.

The report, prepared annually by MnDOT’s Regional Transportation Management Center, shows roads are generally more congested between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m. than between 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.; however, the periods of congestion during the p.m. last longer. The slight increase is below MnDOT’s 10-year projection for congestion increase. Congestion is defined as freeway traffic flowing at speeds less than 45 miles per hour (mph) and does not include delays that may occur at speeds greater than 45 mph.

“Construction, increasing population, a growing economy, gas prices, and the number vehicle miles traveled are all factors that affect congestion,” said Brian Kary, RTMC Director of Traffic Operations. “The department employs a number of strategies to alleviate congestion and provide a transportation system that allows residents, workers, and visitors to move efficiently. Those strategies include MnPASS Express Lanes, additional roadway investments in key areas and the use of technology on ramp meters, signal coordination and transit advantage lanes.”

Projects addressing congestion include:

  • A MnPASS Express Lane constructed on I-35E between Cayuga Street in St.  Paul and County Road J in White Bear Lake, completed in 2016.
  • Additional general purpose lanes on I-494 between Maple Grove and Plymouth completed in 2016 and on I-694 between Rice Street in and Lexington Avenue, complete fall 2017.
  • The St. Croix Crossing on Highway 36 between Oak Park Heights and St. Joseph, Wisconsin will carry between 30,000 and 40,000 vehicles each day. The new crossing will reduce congestion and boost economic development in the region. The St. Croix Crossing opened Aug. 2.
  • Extended acceleration and deceleration lanes on Highway 100 through St. Louis Park allowing motorists to safely access the highway and local roads, 2016.
  • Preserved more than 337 miles of bus shoulders throughout the Twin Cities Metro area, 2016-2017.

Future projects include:

  • A new MnPASS lane on I-35W north between Highway 36 in Roseville and Sunset Avenue in Lino Lakes beginning in 2018. 
  • A four year project on I-35W Lake Street between 43rd Street and 15th Street in Minneapolis that includes adding MnPASS lanes, a transit station and additional access to the region, began late summer 2017.
  • A bridge and pavement repair project that includes adding auxiliary lanes to I-494 in South St. Paul to Inver Grove Heights beginning in 2018.

In addition, MnDOT actively manages traffic through the use of technology:

  • Ramp meters – operating only when needed, ramp meters are traffic signals on highway entrance ramps that manage the flow of traffic onto a highway. Ramp meters are designed and proven to, reduce crashes, reduce congestion and provide more reliable travel times.
  • Freeway Incident Response Safety Team (FIRST) - the FIRST program helps minimize congestion and prevent secondary crashes by quickly removing stalled vehicles from the freeway, providing traffic control at crash scenes, and removing crash debris from the road. FIRST patrols 220 miles of freeways in the Twin Cities Metro area.
  • Coordinating signals and traffic lights on roads that provide access to major highways.
  • Real-time travel information – motorists can call 511 or access www.511mn.org, 24 hours a day, seven days a week to get information about road conditions, traffic incidents, commercial vehicle restrictions, and weather information.
  • Regional Transportation Management Center (RTMC) - located in Roseville, the RTMC is where State Patrol, MnDOT Maintenance, and MnDOT Freeway Operations work together to quickly detect, respond to and remove incidents off of the freeway.

MnDOT gathers congestion data through detectors located in the roads and through field observations. For the 2016 congestion report, the Regional Transportation Management Center collected data from 3,500 detectors rooted in the road (there are 5,500 surveillance detectors, which includes ramps) on Twin Cities’ freeways. The traffic information was collected in October 2016, a month that has the most typical traffic patterns. 

For updated road condition information, call 511 or visit www.511mn.org.