Drivers on Hennepin and Lyndale avenues near the Walker Art Center felt the biggest pain on the first day of the closure of the ramp leading from eastbound Interstate 394 to eastbound Interstate 94, as gridlock developed on the two city streets during the morning rush hour. The area offered a shorter alternative than the 15-mile official detour.
But other than that, traffic generally moved well, state and city officials said.
Minneapolis officials said they were sending extra traffic control agents to the Hennepin and Lyndale area for the Monday afternoon rush hour to help keep things moving, spokeswoman Sarah McKenzie said.
For the most part, drivers either followed the detour, which sent drivers south on Hwy. 100, then east on the Crosstown and north on I-35W, or they simply took the day off.
"It's going as expected," said MnDOT spokesman David Aeikens just after 8 a.m. "People planned ahead and prepared and did a nice job working through it. It is only day one, however. People need to keep picking their routes and allow for lots and lots of time."
That will be the key, Aeikens said.
MnDOT shut down the I-394 ramp that deposits traffic into the Lowry Hill Tunnel on Sunday night. The ramp used by as many as 23,000 drivers daily will be closed until Aug. 28.
Monday was helped by the fact that traffic has reached a summer lull and was lighter than other times of the year. Others simply left their cars at home.
"On the bus this morning bc there will be even more traffic diverted to my route to work. Pretty sure hwy. 100 will be a cluster forever," tweeted Tricia, who goes by @mntwinssisters.
Minneapolis officials were concerned that its streets might become parking lots. A few MnPass users found out the hard way they could not get to eastbound I-94. They were forced into downtown and had to use exits at 12th, 6th and 4th Streets and Washington Avenue. Still that did not put noticeable amounts of extra traffic on downtown streets, McKenzie said.
"Roadways that have I-394 exits onto city of Minneapolis streets were flowing quite well," she said. "Traffic management staff will continue to monitor the traffic impacts of the ramp closure."
Gridlock developed around 7:45 a.m. on Hennepin Avenue between Dunwoody Boulevard and the split with Lyndale Avenue, and the ramp leading to eastbound I-94 backed up. But that was the biggest snarl on the system. Things had cleared by about 8:30 a.m.
The ramp shutdown is part of a summerlong project along I-94 that spans 9 miles between Nicollet Avenue in Minneapolis and the Hwy. 252 interchange in Brooklyn Center.
MnDOT is repairing more than 50 bridges and repaving and rehabilitating the freeway that was constructed in the 1980s. That project will run through October, but work in the Lowry Hill Tunnel will wrap up by mid-September.