It's a sports trifecta on Thursday as the Twins, Vikings and the University of Minnesota football teams all have home games in Minneapolis. Add in the State Fair and you've got a recipe for extra heavy traffic and a crunch on parking places.

Metro Transit says it expects Thursday to be the busiest service day of the year, and it is adding 20 extra buses on routes to get fans to and from the games. The agency also is operating Northstar Commuter trains for both the Twins and Vikings games in addition to extra Blue Line light-rail trains. (See details below.)

Parking will be tight all over as Thursday is a work day in downtown Minneapolis and for employees at the University of Minnesota.  That means many spots normally available to visitors will be in use all day.

Fans heading to the 12:10 p.m. Twins-Royals game at Target Field also will snap up open spots, so those arriving for the 6 p.m. Gophers-UNLV game at TCF Bank Stadium and the Vikings-Tennessee Titans game at the Metrodome will face stiff competition for parking spots, along with having to fight rush hour traffic.

Downtown Parking

Minneapolis operates 17 parking ramps and seven lots in the Warehouse District and throughout downtown. The largest are Ramps A, B and C near Target Field. Plan on arriving early be prepared to have an alternate parking lot or ramp in mind as many will be at capacity.

The city also has 7,000 on-street metered spaces. These too will be at a premium. Be sure to read the information on the signs as metered spaces have varying time restrictions and rates. And those can change from block to block and even from one side of the street to the other.

University of Minnesota Parking

Fans who normally park at the State Fair and take a shuttle bus to TCF Bank Stadium will have to find alternate parking. There won't be bus service from Lot S-108 on the St. Paul campus to the game either.  Fans who have season parking passes will be directed to the Washington Avenue Ramp at 501 Washington Av. SE.

Those without season passes can find spaces for $10 to $20 at the East River Road Garage, Oak Street Ramp, Church Street Garage and lot C-79 on the East Bank. Surface lots near TCF Bank Stadium will be open to football fans. For more information see the U's parking information page.

State Fair Parking

Due to the Gopher football game, the fair's busiest park and ride lots at the University of Minnesota will not be available Thursday, and no shuttle bus service from campus to the fair will be offered.

Patrons who use the 3,600 spots on SE. 5th and 6th Streets, 25th Avenue and the 4th Street Ramp are being encouraged to try the Unisys lot at Walnut St. and County Road B2 or the former Ford Plant at Ford Pkwy. and S. Mississippi Blvd.  Extra buses will be diverted to those lots.

The fair's transportation manager Steve Grans says those two lots have plenty of room to pick up the slack, so fairgoers should not have any problems. Fair personnel also will be at the U to direct fairgoers to other lots.

Metro Transit options

Fans who don't want to battle downtown traffic and parking hassles can use park and ride lots at 28th Avenue, Lake Street and Fort Snelling and take the Blue Line into downtown. That works well for the Twins and Vikings games. Gopher fans could get off at the Metrodome and transfer to a Route 16 bus at 4th Street and Chicago Avenue and ride over to TCF Bank Stadium.

Spokesman John Siqveland says extra three-car light-rail trains will be operating Thursday to augment regular daily service. Post-game buses will take fans directly to the three park and ride lots to expedite departures and relieve crowding on light-rail trains.

Northstar Commuter lines will run as normal on Thursday, with an extra trip departing Big Lake at 10:23 a.m. to get fans to the afternoon Twins game. Return trips will operate at 3:57 p.m., 4:27 p.m., 5:27 p.m. and 6:15 p.m.

Vikings fans can catch the train to the game with the 5:06 p.m. departure from Big Lake and arrive downtown at 5:55 p.m.  It's short walk from Target Field Station to the Metrodome, or hop on the light-rail. A return trip to Big Lake (and all stations along the line) one hour after the game.

These bus routes stop at the Metrodome: 3, 5, 7, 9, 14, 16, 22 and 94.






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7:30 a.m. update: The tame rush continues

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6:25 a.m. update: Current travel times