I-94 by Lowry Tunnel is going to stink this summer

Dear MnDOT, I tried.

I tried to understand everything that will be happening this summer on Interstate 94 in Minneapolis around the Lowry Tunnel.

I read through all the Minnesota Department of Transportation press releases and examined all the diagrams.

I read the information put out Monday about the immediate hassles coming:

There will be a weekend closure of eastbound I-94, between I-394 and I-35W, starting at 10 p.m. on Friday, June 23 through 5 a.m. on Monday, June 26.

The detour for the closure uses westbound I-394, southbound Highway 100 and eastbound Hwy 62. Westbound I-94 will remain open.

The partial weekend closure is occurring during Pride Festival in Loring Park and festivalgoers should consider other routes and ways of traveling to/from the festival. During the partial highway closure, crews will be setting up the Lowry Tunnel restrictions that begin on Monday, June 26.

From June 26 to early August, all motorists on I-94 will travel on the eastbound side of the tunnel while crews work in and around the other side.

Motorists will be restricted to two lanes in each direction through the tunnel. Reduced lane widths and speed limits will be in place.

Trucks weighing more than 9,000 pounds will be restricted from traveling in the tunnel and should use the posted truck detour.

and then I read the update:

Some last-minute changes have been made that will affect the I-94 Minneapolis to Brooklyn Center project and the Lowry Tunnel area.

The I-35W ramp to westbound I-94 will close very early Saturday morning.

The crews believe they can have the eastbound tunnel reconfigured and open by noon Sunday. Crews will be working 24 hour shifts to get the shifts made.

The westbound I-94 to west I-394 and Highway 55 to Eastbound 94 will close Saturday night.

My head hurts, a little.

I appreciate the videos. Miles and Sophia were great trying to help me work through it.

I’m just, I don’t know. I’m not sure I can do it.

Plus, you want me to zipper merge? As NewsCut Commander in Chief Bob Collins wrote nearly five years ago:

Listen to me, MnDOT, I get how the zipper merge is supposed to work, the problem is the people who don’t.

Last evening, for example, I was driving on I-694 in the Oakdale area where, because of construction, the highway narrows to one lane. Perhaps a mile from the merge point, an SUV — sporting a Marine sticker, an NRA sticker, and a Florida Gators decal, just in case that was someone you know — played the role that decent, civilized people dread — the merge cop.

He drove down the middle of the lane stripe, so nobody could pass him on the left or the right, though several people tried. And, thus, a bigger backup was born.

So yeah, MnDOT, we could use some help.

Let’s start with honesty. It will stink around the Lowry Tunnel this summer. We’re all gonna invent ways to try and get around it (anyone got a good workaround?).

Let’s also assume the tunnel will be backed up in both directions all the time and that driving 5 inches from the bumper in front of you is not a good strategy unless you’re into impromptu conversations with the State Patrol.

  • Zachary

    And it’s also going to stink for every nearby route that isn’t included. To paraphrase Yogi – “Nobody drives there anymore – traffic is too bad”
    Oh well – Guess I won’t have to driveway Bob and Mary’s chat in the afternoon anymore – It’ll happen while I’m parked out on crosstown…

    • I take side streets all the way home rather than deal with 62 on my drive home. It’s a bit more…relaxing….

      • Zachary

        Yeah, I’ve tried that too – doesn’t work. 100 to 62 is horrible right now, no matter how I go.

        • Yeah, I understand.

          I take 62, literally the whole length of 62, to get to work and back (live by MSP – work in Minnetonka – OPUS complex).

          Mornings it can take 20 minutes. After work – 45 minutes using side streets. I guess I’m just used to it.

          /Had longish commutes my whole work career…

  • Jack

    Just wait until the possible rebuild of 35W starts up north of downtown. Don’t know the status of that project but MNDOT was already warning local residents about it during townhalls on the 280 project in 2016.

    Throw in the Super Bowl, some other traffic disruptions and we might as well go back to horse and buggy…. Either that or companies need to reconsider their telecommuting policies and either allow it for the first time or let people do it again (for those companies that have disallowed telecommuting).

    p.s. – Is Bob stuck in traffic somewhere? 😉

    • MNDOT traffic advisory: Shelter in place.

      • Jack

        Love it!

      • theoacme

        That didn’t work so well at Grenfell Tower, Bob…

        …I just got updated advice from the RTC: “…valar morghulis…”

  • John

    HWY 100 has already turned into a giant parking lot (even though it’s FINALLY 3 lanes both ways) while it tries to absorb the construction traffic from 169 being closed for a year.

    This isn’t going to help that. I should probably warn the babysitter that I’m going to be late basically every day until this is done.

    resigning myself to sitting in my car.

  • I know MNDOT has a thankless job, but I wish they would think of us as their customers rather than as a problem to be “managed”.

    • Ryan Coleman

      If their customers behaved more like Minnesotans than problems they wouldn’t have to be managed.

      PR is the issue and MNDOT hasn’t exactly had the greatest track record of fixing things the first time.

  • Gary F

    Yup, its going to suck. I use it every day. Got my VPN line all set up and will work from home and possibly go into the office maybe after ten, and leave at two.

  • AL287

    Add shutting down the Light Rail for the replacement of the tracks for the Blue and Green Lines and “screwed up” is the understatement of the year and this with two major events taking place this weekend.

    This is why I avoid working in downtown Minneapolis because I hate sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic. It’s unhealthy and a complete and total waste of time. I can think of a lot of better things to do with that 3 hours.

    This reminds me of the construction on I-10 in Baton Rouge in the late 80’s. You never knew what lane the barrels were going to be in so people just avoided the Interstate altogether and started taking alternate routes.

    GPS won’t help in this situation. You have to plan your route using that old fashioned method called a printed street map.

    • John

      Google maps does a spectacular job of keeping up with construction and lane closures. Those of us with smart phones can still use GPS.

      It’s still gonna suck big time.

      • jon

        I’ve started using google maps navigation even when I know where I’m going for any trip longer than a few miles.

        I’ve probably saved hours of time by having it re-route me around accidents that I couldn’t have known existed…

        It’s not a perfect system, and it’s always best to check and make sure it’s sending you some place sane before you follow it… it has on occasion tried to send me down closed roads, or routed me out of my way so I could go through construction, but for the most part it’s pretty good.

    • Ryan Coleman

      “Add shutting down the Light Rail for the replacement of the tracks for the Blue and Green Lines and “screwed up” is the understatement of the year and this with two major events taking place this weekend.”

      Sure but that’s not MNDOT’s fault… And the loss of Light Rail won’t effect Pride that much – the line is more than a mile away from Loring Park. Granted the forecast is super nice this year compared to most so that might have gotten more to walk over bus…

  • Jack Ungerleider

    My rule of thumb is when possible know at least 3 ways to get from point A to point B. I prefer “surface streets” to highways in all cases except long distance driving. My 10 mile commute from the West 7th neighborhood in St Paul to NE Minneapolis never sees a highway in rush hour. (Okay sometimes I’ll take 280 from Broadway to University going home if I need to shave a little time off the trip.)

    • Ryan Coleman

      I had the same thing going when the 394 reversible lanes were sent one-way for the last five weeks or so. Minnetonka to Falcon Heights on the streets takes about 65 minutes. My highway commute through DT Minneapolis takes 45 minutes.

      No brainer. I hate being stuck in traffic.

      I cannot wait to move.

      • Jack Ungerleider

        I used to do Shorewood (west of Excelsior) to Arden Hills via Hwy 7, streets through Uptown to 35W at Franklin and up. I think it took the same amount of time as 7 to 494 to 694 and getting stuck in Brooklyn Park/Center. I had lived in the Whittier neighborhood when I started that job and moved back there after about a year. (I was out west because my wife had a job out in way west Hennepin and I was on contract at the place in Arden Hills.)

  • d3photography.com

    Alternative solution: Dig out a new tunnel pass and disrupt Hennepin/Lyndale/Dunwoody for another 10 years like they did in the 70s?

  • lindblomeagles

    Looking at 94’s configuration from spaghetti junction in Saint Paul to the Lowry Tunnel in Minneapolis, it seems the planners never thought the cities traffic would grow as large as it has between this area. There are a lot of stops bunched up on top of each other, S-curves that branch off into 1 to 2 more highways, and lanes disappearing and reappearing out of nowhere. That’s the biggest problem with Lowry Tunnel. On its East Side are exits for 35W North (none, coincidentally for downtown Minneapolis). On its West Side are exits for Highway 394 and downtown Minneapolis. It all converges right there, such that, when construction occurs, everything is a mess.

  • Bob Sinclair

    Frankly, I can’t muster a lot of sympathy giving the fact that traffic in the Seattle or Portland areas is much worse than you folks back east have it. Good luck with your commutes.

  • A couple years ago MNDOT did a big project to repair the northeast section of 694 between highway 36 and Woodbury. There was a massive disruption and when everything was complete there were still only two lanes each direction and there are frequent slowdowns. Now we will see the new St. Croix River bridge on highway 36 open next month, funneling much more traffic along 36 and down 694. This borders on malpractice! And we had to wait years and years before a two lane overpass was replaced on 94 across from the 3M campus. This bottleneck caused no end of headaches. MNDOT should be aggressively informing legislators about such needs and warning them of the consequences if they drag their feet on funding.