Big squeeze coming between the downtowns

Anyone who’s driven Interstate 94 between Minneapolis and St. Paul lately knows the rough road is in dire need of repair.

So when crews start closing lanes in late April to begin a 12-mile resurfacing project, many motorists may be willing to keep their tempers in check.

In 2011, though, things could get ugly. That’s because parts of University Avenue — a popular alternate route when I-94 is jammed — may be torn up at the same time as the freeway.

The I-94 work will be done over two years. Crews will work this spring and summer on the section from Highway 280 east to downtown St. Paul. Lane closures will be part of the deal.

“You simply cannot work in that corridor without disruption,” Minnesota Department of Transportation engineer Scott McBride told MPR a few weeks ago. “But we’ll keep traffic going as best we can.”

A second phase of the I-94 work will stretch from Highway 280 to the west, starting in spring 2011. And that’s when the old “you can’t get there from here” routine could begin for travelers between the downtowns.

A construction double whammy comes courtesy of the Central Corridor light-rail project. Last week, officials announced a construction schedule that would have University Avenue west of Hamline Avenue torn up in 2011 from March through November.

So here’s the painful scenario: you’re heading west on I-94 from the east metro — to a Twins game perhaps — and hit a backup because the freeway is squeezed at 280. You bail out at the Cretin/Vandalia or Snelling Avenue exit, thinking you can pick up University the rest of the way. Only now University is down to one lane each way, so that’s no help. Now what? Marshall Avenue to Lake Street? Ouch.

Of course, the Central Corridor project is not yet fully funded, so the construction schedule could change. But for now, 2011 looks like a real pain for getting through the Midway.

You can explore the light-rail construction timeline via this map put together by the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Comments are closed.