When the MnPASS Loses Its Magic

September 7, 2010

Lindsey thinks traffic on 35W is bad now -- but just wait until November!

Are you one of the lucky ones who get the pleasure of commuting into the Twin Cities from the suburbs every day during the prime hours of rush hour traffic? I know I certainly am!

Minneapolis/St. Paul ranks No. 12 for traffic congestion, according to an annual study by the consulting firm INRIX.  I thought I was a pretty patient person when it comes to traffic, as I have had several years to get used to the drive from my home in Lakeville to various internships and jobs in Minneapolis.

Still, when the MnPASS lane on I-35W opened in September last year, I thought my quality of commute was going to drastically improve. For about $40 a month, I would be cruising along happily in this special new lane. But it didn’t take me long to realize the excitement ended right where the worst part of my commute begins (at the spot where 35W heading toward downtown hits the Crosstown Highway).

The congestion is awful there, and as a spoiled MnPASSer, I could not believe I had to sit in traffic! Construction of a MnPASS lane on that stretch is under way, but who knows when it will be done? Meanwhile, traffic on 35W seems to have gotten a lot worse all of a sudden! The backup used to start at the Crosstown, but it’s now moved further back to the 76th Street bridge.

And for those of us coming from south of the river, the backups that used to begin at County Rd. 42 have now slipped back to County Rd. 46. When I hit these backups, I always wonder if there was an accident. Or maybe there’s a lane closed for construction?

But on most days, neither of those cases proves to be true. So what has caused this sudden extra congestion? Am I the only one who has noticed this? Unless there are accidents every day that are cleared before I get there, I can’t seem to find the cause for this mysterious new backup in traffic. Do you hold the answers that will put my frustrated commuter mind to rest? If so, please comment!