What happens while you’re taking that detour

Tis’ the season! There’s been a series of increasingly frustrating road woes in the Twin Cities this summer.

While it might not be your first thought while you’re driving your 20-minute detour route, there’s some impressive stuff happening on those closed stretches of highway.

In a series of tweets, the Minnesota Department of Transportation shared some of what got accomplished over the weekend — along with a time-lapse video showing the progress made on Interstate 35W, despite some less than stellar weather.



  • Guest

    The only thing worse than road construction is NO road construction.

    Thank you to MN DOT.

    • Kassie

      Sometimes. When we lived in East St Paul they took down the bridge that was the easiest way for us to get downtown by bike within weeks of us moving in. Then they did nothing on it for a year and a half. It just sat there. It finally reopened a few weeks before we moved out. It was the road construction hassle without the actual construction.

      • John

        I think that would fall into the “no construction” bucket.

  • Barton

    I do appreciate the updates from MNDOT. It helps me/others see what the progress is and have hope that it will be gone someday. Though, it isn’t that I can’t wait for the roads to reopen, it is more that I cannot wait for people to stop using MY routes around town(s) as their detours. LOL

  • Jeff

    I drive through the construction zone on 35 through Forest Lake every day and I get annoyed with the people who speed through going well over 70 mph in a 60 zone. I’m not one to stick with the posted speed limits on the freeway but when it’s workers and safety I do, but I seem to be mostly in the minority.

  • Jeff C.

    Why doesn’t MN DOT put many resources into a FEW projects at a time to get them done quickly instead of putting the same number of resources into MANY projects at a time, resulting in them getting done slowly?

    • John

      I suspect three things:

      1) MANY Projects need to be done each year, in our limited construction season. (Yes, I know this does not counter your above).
      2) There are diminishing returns on adding resources to projects – doubling the number of people on a job site does not necessarily double the speed at which the work gets done.
      3) Assuming a certain percentage of the work is done by private contractors, they likely don’t have enough resources available to them to get the job done faster (i.e. Bob’s road construction can only do 10 miles of road per month – they don’t own enough steam rollers to do more).

      • Jeff

        My understanding is that roads (and transit for that matter) have been underfunded for years. The legislature (Republicans) refuses to raise the gas tax or provide a consistent source of funding so it makes planning ahead difficult. Contractors are reluctant to ramp up if there’s no guarantee that the work will be there in a few years and we end up paying more.

        • jon

          They raise my road use taxes. $85 a year extra for electric cars in wheelage fees… add in the additional sales tax I paid for my car (because of the increased MSRP vs. a comparable ICE car, all of which was taken care of by incentives by didn’t reduce the sales tax burden any) and I’m subizing roads for near everyone else.

          • John

            Aren’t you buying less gas than those of us with ICE vehicles? There’s a $0.285 tax per gallon state and another $0.184 federal tax on gas.

            So, I’d wager that you’re not subsidizing roads – at least not for me. By my estimate (I drive a lot – over 15,000 miles per year) I have paid roughly $200 in state fuel taxes that are mandated to be spent on road maintenance. So, am I subsidizing you?

            Not trying to start an argument, just noting that an $85 fee does not really cover the road funding through gas taxes that the state is missing out on. Actually – I bet your cost is pretty close to what the state loses in gas tax revenue, because I have a bigger than average vehicle and drive more than average – so I expect to pay above average too.

          • jon

            Quick math… suggests you are getting 21 mpg… national average is 25… you should get a more efficient vehicle.

            Regardless the increased sales tax (for a comparable car) is already ~$1,200 in additional road funds prior to me even driving on a road.

            Let’s assume that your $200 a year is accurate.
            to catch up to the extra $1200 I paid in motor vehicle sales tax you’ll need to drive your car for ~10 years…
            If we assume you are getting 25 mpg rather than 21 (still could round gas tax numbers up to $200 at that point), then it’s 12.6 years… average age of cars in MN are 12.0 years.

            oh, and you got 15,000 miles of road for that $200 compared to my 12,000 miles… so you get More road for less price over the course of the life of our two vehicles…

            All that being said, I’m still saving money like crazy having the electric… I can do the math later if your interested but the national average is ~$0.54 per mile for a passenger car and I believe the electric is costing me something like $0.10 a mile (includes maintenance depreciation, etc.)

          • John

            I have no doubt that I’m paying more. Unfortunately, I haven’t found a more overall cost effective vehicle that meets all my needs for commuting, hauling people, and hauling stuff regularly, or I would have bought that instead of this.

            (That’s only mostly true – once a car is paid off, it costs a lot less than the payment on a new one, so I will drive this one until that’s either no longer true, or the rattles from it drive me to the dealer – I’d rather have a pickup than an SUV, but economic factors keep me where I’m at for now).

            21 mpg is pretty dead on in the summer. It gets around 20 in the winter. Gas is one of the cheaper parts of owning a car with a combustion engine in the end anyways.

            I would be better served from a gas consumption perspective commuting in a smaller vehicle (I drive 40 miles per day – 10K miles per year just commuting), but the savings per mile in gas doesn’t come close to offsetting the cost of owning another vehicle and paying insurance, depreciation, tabs, etc. – I have done the math, and I do revisit it every once in a while to make sure it still holds – so far it does.

            I’m curious how you come up with the $0.10 per mile number. Depreciation, insurance, tabs, maintenance, and gas typically all feed into the $0.54/mile estimate. The areas where you would save would be maintenance and gas – correct? I imagine depreciation is similar between electric and combustion – that alone accounts for something like $0.20 of that $0.54 estimate.

            (My numbers: $30K cost of car, 150K mile life expectancy before value drops to zero – both mediocre estimates, but even at a 300K mile lifespan, you’re still hitting your stated $0.10/mile operational cost estimate just in depreciation – no tabs, insurance, electricity, or maintenance included).

            I anticipate this vehicle will last approximately 10-12 years, or at least 160K miles – likely more if I manage/decide to push it to 12 years (it’s coming up on 8 years old this fall, and I’m at 133K miles now).

            So yeah, you’re in a cheaper situation overall, but I have four people, a dog, bikes, camping gear, and groceries to haul regularly. I’d like to pick up something new, but there’s no way it will be cheaper than a car that’s paid off, so I will continue to drive this.

          • jon

            10-20 cents sounds about right, depending on how optimistic I’m being…

            Electric drivetrain should last for 500k easy (might need some transmission work at that point), rest of the car maybe, maybe not.

            Battery has a 10 year 100k warranty, and our cold climate plus my insulated garage are going to keep it at a healthy temperature. and even when it goes it’s only a $6-7 grand right now, and probably half that price in 10 years the way battery prices are trending.

            not much maintenance beyond that… no oil to change, no air filter….

            Car was only ~$15k after incentives…

            I get about 4-4.5 miles to the kwh… kwh costs me ~13 cents right now, (less once I get the panels on the roof) and I could go as low as 3 cents a kwh if I bothered to get off peak electricity for it (which I’m not doing, getting the panels instead). And it can be charged for free at a number of places…

          • John

            Okay – assuming a $5000 battery every 100K miles (which I think is reasonable, based on the warranty and some decrease in battery price over time), then battery wear and tear is $0.05/mile, insurance at $60/month or $0.06/mile, value depreciation of roughly $0.06/mile (I’ll believe 500K miles when I see it, but I’ll give you more miles than ICE, because there should be), and some other non-engine, mechanical maintenance (tires, brakes, suspension, etc.) coming out at around $0.02/mile (I assumed around 70K miles and a total cost of around $1500, which could be low – I do most of this myself, and don’t know what a shop would charge for a lot of it), tabs ~$0.04/mile, and finally, ~$0.02/mile in fuel cost – I come up with $0.25/mile cost of ownership.

            You could come out ahead of that, or other surprises could drive it up, but as a quick estimate, it’s probably not terribly far off. I used 10K miles per year as my mileage for annual or longer term costs, and 12K miles/year for monthly costs, because that made the math possible to do in my head.

            Really cheap, compared to the rest of us, but still not close to the $0.10/mile you originally gave above.

          • jon

            I’ve never added insurance or tabs into my math… probably an oversight…

            And, 10 years 100k is the warranty period on the battery, not necessarily it’s usable life, I don’t think anyone knows what the average lifespan is for this battery yet… but Nissan and me have a bet, they say more than 100k or 10 years, and I’m hoping for less… we’ll find out who wins in the next 9 years.

            Generally the people who have had to have the leaf batteries replaced have been in very warm climates… texas and such… And the 30 Kwh pack I have is supposed to be better for wider temperature ranges (doesn’t have active cooling, does have active heating kicks in something like -14f) But given that temperature is the killer, and that my garage keeps a 20-30F temperature range all winter I’m thinking a good long life shouldn’t be unreasonable for me.

            I also suspect your maintenance costs are a bit high.
            Scheduled maintenance for the first 120k involves rotating the tires, changing the cabin air filter, and replacing the key fob batteries (also checking brake fluid, but that’s less of a concern in out climate).
            Check out the schedule:

            There is a whole lot less to break on an electric drive train…. and tons less to maintain.

          • John

            That’s definitely an oversight – cost of your tabs vs. mine is the thing that started this conversation, and insurance is one of the more expensive parts of owning a car (third behind depreciation and fuel for ICE vehicles. Probably 2nd for you).

            You’ll need tires before 120K. Possibly twice. Most tires run 50-70K miles between replacements (I’ve found tires on new cars to be on the low end of that, but I’ve only owned a couple new cars). Ditto for brakes (60-80K seems pretty typical around the city – may be a little different with EV’s and regenerative braking. I have no idea how that impacts pad and rotor life – might extend it). Struts are typically 100-120K miles. I stretched mine to 130, but immediately after replacement, it was obvious I was way overdue.

            None of those parts are ICE related – they’re all common to both our vehicles.

            Cost estimates I used:
            Tires: $600-800 installed (may be high – mine were over $700, but I suspect SUV tires are more expensive)
            Brakes & rotors: I figured $300-400 to have a shop do them – again, I DIYed mine last time, and they set me back over $100 for rotors and pads.
            Struts & Alignment: $400-600. I did the replacement myself, and the struts set me back almost $300, with alignment costing $100. Shop labor would add at least a couple hundred to the struts.

            Shooting up the middle: $700+350+500 = $1550.

            They’re not in the book, because all three are a replace as needed items, not replace every X miles. It probably says to check all three at every one of the time points and replace if worn.

          • Jeff

            At approximately 40 gal/month I’m around $225/year but I drive more than most people. To me this doesn’t seem like enough $ for the use of the roads including all the plowing, salt, maintenance. I also make donations to MNPass too. I’d like an electric but with an ICE car I can pick up illegal aliens too.

          • Frank

            Thank you.

          • Jack

            What does ICE stand for in your post?

          • jon

            Internal combustion engine.

            Some fun electric car slang, ICE cars that park in electric car spots (with a charger) are referred to as having been ICE’d… the owners of such cars are ICEholes.

        • John

          I’d imagine that a contractor is hesitant to add another million dollar machine that they have to pay for, just in case the state wants a bigger project done. It’s sort of the same thing you see in auto repair garages – you can’t get in for a week or more, but there’s not enough demand to justify the cost of building another stall (and probably hiring another mechanic).