What to do with the extra lane on I-94?

With the re-opening of the I-35W Bridge, traffic on I-94 south and east of downtown Minneapolis was supposed to get re-striped so it returns to three lanes. It was temporarily converted to four lanes while I-35W traffic was re-routed along I-94 to Hwy 280.

Lots of folks liked having an extra lane and wanted to keep it. As I recall, MnDOT said no because, particularly on the bridges, having no shoulder is not safe when there’s an accident and there’s also the problem of having nowhere to plow the snow to.

According to Transit for Livable Communities, this is no longer the case. The additional reason they cite is because the shoulder was previously available for bus-only traffic during periods of congestion and of course is available to emergency vehicles as well.

Any plan to turn the temporary shoulder lanes into permanent lanes for mixed traffic clearly runs counter to both statutory and agency goals, which call for both safe transportation and increased transit use in urban areas. I-94 without shoulder lanes is simply not as safe as it was previously; federal design guidelines call for 12-foot lane widths, a 10-foot paved shoulder on the right, and a 4-foot paved shoulder on the left.

Further, our region has a national reputation for its bus-only shoulder lanes, which by encouraging transit ridership, are a proven congestion management strategy. When I-94 is very congested and the buses are stuck in mixed traffic, entire bus trips may be missed because drivers are unable to make a second run.

The bus thing, I’m sure, is the only reason TLC even cares, though the safety and snow reasons are perfectly valid as well.

I don’t typically commute that way, so I don’t have a dog in the fight (technically, though there are wider implications than traffic on any given day). But there are several good reasons to return that stretch of highway to its previous configuration.

TLC staff members were told that MnDOT would extensively study the costs and benefits of returning the shoulders to their previous use, and that there would be an opportunity for public input regarding this decision. As of publication, MnDOT has not communicated the dates for the study to begin or when public input will be solicited.

MnDOT’s “Interstate 35W Bridge – Traffic Impacts” page says:

I-94 lane additions between Hwy 280 and I-35W will stay OPEN while the state studies turning them into carpool/toll lanes or another type of managed lane.

So now the whole thing has to be a huge study? Studies cost money. And, wait, now they might be HOV lanes? Where did that come from?

What a cluster. Just restripe the damn road and get it over with.

2 Comments so far

  1. kevinfromminneapolis on September 27th, 2008 @ 9:45 pm

    I thought they announced during the State Fair that the lanes were staying.


  2. David (jacc) on September 27th, 2008 @ 11:10 pm

    I heard they are shutting down lanes on 94 for work next summer anyway. I agree, take away the lane.



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