Minnesota Department of Transportation

511 Travel Info

News Release

July 15, 2019

Report: Congestion on Twin Cities metro freeways slightly increases as population grows

Various projects, strategies aim to alleviate congestion

ROSEVILLE, Minn. — Traffic congestion on freeways in the Twin Cities metropolitan area has increased slightly, but remains below the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s 10-year projection for congestion, according to a new report released today. MnDOT defines congestion as traffic flowing at speeds less than or equal to 45 mph. 

The 2018 Metropolitan Freeway System Congestion Report (PDF) shows the percentage of congested freeways increased from 23.2 percent in 2017 to 24.2 percent in 2018. The number of people living in the seven-county metro area also is projected to increase, according to preliminary estimates from the Metropolitan Council.

Twin Cities metro area congestion rates and estimated population

  • 2018—24.2 percent congested: population at 3.11 million—preliminary estimate
  • 2017—23.2 percent; 3.08 million
  • 2016—23.7 percent; 3.04 million
  • 2015—23.4 percent; 3.01 million
  • 2014—21.1 percent; 2.98 million

“Congestion is affected by a number of things, including the local economy, road construction, transit ridership and population growth,” said MnDOT Commissioner Margaret Anderson Kelliher. “As the Twin Cities grow, and our roads continue to age and deteriorate, it’s imperative that we identify a long-term, dedicated funding solution to invest in transportation, improve our system’s efficiency and keep Minnesotans moving.” 

MnDOT targets congestion hot spots through various construction projects and employs strategies to help alleviate ongoing congestion on the Twin Cities metro freeway system, such as managed lanes and active traffic management.

The department recently completed several projects aimed at improving traffic flow in the Twin Cities metro area, and is currently working on and preparing for other congestion-alleviating projects. This work includes:

  • I-35W in Minneapolis — Construction is in full swing on the four-year I-35W project between 43rd Street and 15th Street in Minneapolis that includes adding MnPASS lanes, a transit station at Lake Street and additional access to the region. Work started in summer 2017 and will continue through fall 2021.
  • I-35W in Roseville and Lino Lakes — Work is underway on I-35W between Highway 36 in Roseville and Sunset Avenue in Lino Lakes. Construction includes adding MnPASS Express Lanes between County Road C in Roseville and Lexington Avenue/County Road 17 in Blaine.
  • Highway 65 in Ham Lake and East Bethel — Crews are constructing several reduced conflict intersections on Highway 65 in Ham Lake and East Bethel, including the recent completion of Minnesota’s first signalized RCI, located at Viking Boulevard in East Bethel. RCIs decrease broadside crashes on four-lane divided highways by reducing conflict points associated with crossing the highway. They also, generally, cause less of a delay for motorists than a standard traffic signal.
  • Highway 169 and Highway 41 in Scott County — Work is progressing at the intersection of Highway 169 and Highway 41 in Scott County. The project, led by Scott County, includes the construction of a new diverging diamond interchange at Highway 169 and Highway 41 that will improve safety and mobility by removing direct access to Highway 169. Diverging diamond interchanges cut overall traffic delays and improve safety by eliminating conflict points associated with standard intersections.
  • I-35W in Burnsville — Crews recently constructed a new bus and high-occupancy vehicle bypass ramp at the Burnsville Parkway entrance to northbound I-35W in Burnsville. The new ramp allows buses and high-occupancy vehicles to bypass the ramp meter in an effort to encourage transit use and carpooling.

Congestion management strategies

  • Ramp meters — These traffic signals on highway entrance ramps manage the flow of traffic onto a highway and operate only when needed. Ramp meters are designed and proven to reduce crashes and congestion, and provide more reliable travel times.
  • Freeway Incident Response Safety Team — 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 debris from the road.
  • Real-time travel information — Motorists can call 511 or access 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 — The RTMC in Roseville is a cooperative facility where The Minnesota State Patrol, MnDOT Maintenance and MnDOT Freeway Operations work together to quickly detect, respond to and remove incidents off of the freeway.
  • MnPASS — These express lanes provide a congestion-free option during rush hour for those who ride express transit, carpool or pay an electronic fee. The lanes help move people more efficiently by improving traffic flow in adjacent lanes and allowing for transit services to travel at higher speeds.

To view a PDF of the complete 2018 Metropolitan Freeway System Congestion Report, visit mndot.gov/rtmc/reports/congestionreport2018.pdf. For updated road condition information, call 511 or visit 511mn.org.