MnDOT is considering keeping extra lanes on Interstate 94 when the new I-35w bridge opens this fall.
After the I-35w bridge collapsed nearly a year ago, MnDOT created a detour that takes drivers onto I-94 and Highway 280. That has boosted traffic there an extra 35,000 cars a day.
To make room, crews repainted I-94 to add a lane in each direction by letting cars drive on the shoulder. It was considered an emergency and temporary move, but now MnDOT is considering leaving the extra lanes to relieve congestion.
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Still, MnDOT engineer Tom O'Keefe says congestion isn't the only issue: "Any time we narrow shoulders or narrow lanes, we're going to have concerns about safety. We are collecting information; we'll have a more complete account as we approach the bridge opening."
O'Keefe says the federal government paid $1.2 million for the re-painting, on the premise it would be temporary. A decision to keep the lanes might require the state to repay those costs.
O'Keefe says 94 will still be congested, with nearly 200,000 vehicles a day, even after the detour traffic returns to 35w.
But O'Keefe says there are other factors to consider: "When we re-striped, we narrowed lanes and narrowed shoulders; and by narrowing shoulders we made it so that busses weren't able to use those to bypass congestion.
"So there was a loss there in terms of transit advantage."
A decision is expected by the time the new 35w bridge opens, which is slated for September, though any work that comes from that decision won't start by that deadline.