I use Highway 169 from County 21 to 394 East. This represents the bulk of the commute from my home in Prior Lake to my work at Minneapolis Community & Technical College downtown. MnDOT has investigated the feasibility of options to alleviate the congestion at key points along this stretch.
The study indicated consideration of a MnPASS lane, increased bus service and “spot mobility improvements.” However, questions still exist. Was information not reported, or do oversights exist?
First, the south end of the Bloomington Ferry Bridge needs redesign, especially for northbound traffic. Within only a half-mile, traffic from County 21, Stagecoach Road and County Road 101 eastbound and westbound all merge onto 169 North. This no longer serves the increasing number of motorists using these thoroughfares and is additionally problematic because drivers brake needlessly and fail to properly use a zipper merge.
Second, another need exists at the confluence of southbound 169 and 494. Many years ago, improvements to 494 eliminated some of the congestion on 494 at this intersection. The net effect of the change was merely moving the choking traffic to southbound 169. If one looks carefully, two southbound lanes and three merging lanes of traffic funnel back to two in only a half-mile. Again, as drivers butcher the merge, this becomes a parking lot between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.
The third issue relates to the construction of a MnPASS lane. Over the past seven years, as I travel highway 394 East for 5 miles from 169 to the Dunwoody Boulevard exit, a clear observation is that a very small minority of people use the MnPASS lane. The overwhelming majority of drivers refuse to pay. As such, the MnPASS lane does little to alleviate congestion.
I would like data on the number of people using that MnPASS lane relative to the overall volume of traffic on that stretch of 394 heading into downtown. This data would inform those living in the southwest metro of the relative utility of a lane for carpooling and paying motorists. If a goal is to reduce congestion on 169, particularly in the areas of the Bloomington Ferry Bridge and the 169/494 confluence, I believe construction of an “exclusive” lane will prove futile.
Has MnDOT addressed these issues in their surveys and studies? I want data and believe others in the growing southwest metro will too.