The metro area’s newest outlet mall is sure to be a magnet for shoppers and Eagan city officials say they are ready for the traffic crunch that is expected during the grand opening Thursday through Sunday.
New directional signage has been installed to guide shoppers into and out of Twin Cities Premium Outlets at the junction of Cedar Avenue and Hwy. 13. Traffic signals have been rejiggered to lengthen the amount of time allowed for left turns at key access points to the mall.
Police will be out monitoring traffic and free rides on mass transit will be offered to encourage shoppers to leave their cars at home or at park and ride lots.
Auxiliary parking lots adjacent to the 400,000 retail space will be open and Simon Property Group, which operates the mall, will provide flaggers on site to guide shoppers into vacant parking spaces to keep the flow efficient.
“We are staffed up and ready to go,” said Tom Garrison, communications director for the City of Eagan. “It’s going to be busy. People need to plan ahead just like when they go to the State Fair.”
Thursday morning commuters should escape traffic hassles, but a significant crush is expected just after rush hour as a ribbon cutting takes place at 9:30 a.m. and the stores’ opening at 10, said Simon’s General Manager Peter Lund.
Simon has opened similar malls across the country and if traffic patterns play out here as they did for those grand openings, traffic will be thick for the entire four days, Lund said. To that end, he’s encouraging people to carpool or take transit.
The Minnesota Valley Transit Authority will offer free rides on its buses, which stop across the street at the Cedar Grove Transit Station. Metro Transit is offering free rides on the Red Line, the bus rapid transit line from Mall of America to Apple Valley. It too, stops at Cedar Grove. A coupon from MVTA (www.mvta.com) is necessary to get a free ride.
“We want people to use transit,” Garrison said.
For those who arrive by car, digital signs along Hwy. 13 and Cedar Avenue will direct motorists to the least congested exits and post parking advisory information. To mitigate congestion concerns, Russ Matthys, Eagan’s public works director, said the city spent $35,000 to retime traffic lights at Hwy. 13 and Silver Bell Road, Silver Bell and Cedar Grove Pkwy. and at Diffley and Nicols Rds. Garrison said Cedar Avenue drivers may have more luck using the Diffley Road exit rather than Hwy. 13, then heading north on Nicols Road to access the mall.
Police will be at busy corners to facilitate traffic flow, and if necessary, direct motorists to a city-owned parking garage with 1,530 spaces across from the mall should the shopping complex’s 800 spots fill up.
Matthys said the city put up extra signs to direct shoppers back to Hwy. 13 and Cedar Avenue, and no parking signs in nearby neighborhoods to keep those streets clear. Crosswalks also were enhanced.
Garrison said Eagan officials recently visited Livermore, Calif. where Simon opened an outlet mall and massive traffic issues developed. Officials gathered information from their visit and from three local traffic management studies to craft the plan to handle the extra traffic here, he said.
“They had significant backups onto the freeway,” he said. “Eagan has two different access points and we want that to be known. If one is busy go to the next one.”
Simon will provide shuttles from off-site parking lots for employees to help ease the crunch.
“If 60 percent of employees do that, problem solved,” Garrison said. “We think it’s a decent plan.”
Tim Harlow • 612-673-7768