Eden Prairie traffic congestion

A look at 7:30 a.m. weekday traffic from the Mitchell Road bridge over Highway 212 in Eden Prairie.

Whether putzing through slowdowns or minding stop-and-go’s, Twin Cities drivers experience traffic congestion at nearly twice the rate they did in 1995.

And, congestion across the 7-county area became stuffier over the last year. Moving from a rate of 23.2% congested freeways in 2017 to 24.2% in 2018, the increase was published in the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s (MnDOT) 2018 Congestion Report. The 1% growth was slight, though, as it fell below MnDOT’s 10-year projection.

“As the Twin Cities grow, and our roads continue to age and deteriorate,” said MnDOT Commissioner Margaret Anderson Kelliher in a press release, “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’s 10-year projection trend maps traffic congestion passing 30% in 2024.

Freeways become congested when traffic moves along at 45 mph or less, which is the speed at which shock waves start appearing. Shock waves are the pockets of slowdown where cars may collectively brake for changes such as a lane ending, interchange or crash.

For its report, MnDOT measured congestion with the help of electronic surveillance systems and field observations. The electronic measurements are on about 95% of the metro area freeway system, and are gathered through loop detectors in the pavement, or radar sensors mounted on the roadside. 

Factors ranging from population growth to gas prices can impact the congestion rate. The department says it is using ramp meters; a safety response team; 511 real-time travel information; and a management center as strategies to manage congestion.

One of the more obvious knocks at traffic flow is construction. MnDOT says upon completion, some of the bigger projects happening around the metro should lessen congestion.

The intersection of Highway 169 and Highway 41 in Scott County is undergoing construction, with a diverging diamond interchange being implemented, that MnDOT says will trim delays and improve safety.

Another heavy-hitting project is I-35W in Minneapolis. It is a four-year project to add MnPASS lanes, a transit station at Lake Street and more access. This project will continue through fall 2021.

Lara is a regional reporter for Southwest News Media.


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