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I-35W collapse leads to increase in congestion

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Highway traffic
Recent studies indicate that traffic congestion in the Twin Cities costs nearly $1 billion.
MPR file photo

Traffic congestion in the Twin Cities has increased for the first time in four years, according to a study released Friday by the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

The study showed that there were 305 miles of congested freeway in the Twin Cities last year, compared to 267 miles in 2006.  MnDOT defines congestion as traffic moving slower than 45 miles per hour.  

MnDOT traffic engineer Bernie Arseneau said the collapse of the I-35W bridge last August played a key role in the increased congestion.  

"That was an important link to our metro freeway system," he said. "And when that went down, it had a significant impact on several corridors throughout the metro area."

Arseneau added that congestion would have been worse if MnDOT had not widened a stretch of I-94, converted Highway 280 into a freeway and made other changes to accommodate traffic.

"I do think that without the traffic restoration projects we would have seen  a much, much greater impact of that bridge collapse," Arseneau said. "Those things that we did made a big difference in reducing the impact of that collapse, in terms of the amount of congestion on our freeway system."