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3 p.m. update: It's already a white-knuckle drive

Posted by: Tim Harlow Updated: February 20, 2014 - 3:04 PM

The winter wallop has turned metro area roads treacherous with heavy slushy snow accumulating in between the lanes of busy highways and covering ramps, bridges and sidestreets.

Freezing temperatures and high winds will make roads deteriorate quickly, making for an icy mess that is already causing chaos on the roads.

Vehicles are slipping off the roads and crashes are mounting. Already we have nine wrecks on the system, including one blocking two lanes on northbound 169 at I-494 in Eden Prairie.

Entrance and exit ramps are extremely tricky. This list of spinouts on ramps as of 3 p.m.

Westbound 494 at France Avenue

Westbound Hwy. 36 at Rice Street

Westbound 694 at Central Avenue

Eastbound 694 at 35E in Little Canada

Transit riders won't be immune to delays either.  This memo from Minnesota Valley Transit Authority officials:

A snowy, difficult commute is predicted for both this afternoon and tomorrow morning's rush hours. At this time we plan to operate our trips according to regular weekday schedules, but please keep in mind that delays could be likely.

Metro Transit also says riders can expect delays.

This from Maple Grove Transit: Buses will be running a full schedule today, but trips may get delayed due to the snow storm.  Please note that many commuters are attemtping to leave for home on earlier trips out of Minneapolis.  Maple Grove Transit is unable to put on additional buses, so some trips may reach their maximum carrying capacity.

SouthWest Transit riders:

For the ride home on westbound buses departing the University of Minnesota and downtown Minneapolis after 1 p.m., riders should look for a sign that says "All Stops." That means riders can take any bus home. Those buses will serve SouthWest Station, Southwest Village and East Creek. Riders heading elsewhere will need to transfer at one of those stations.

Express buses will not stop at the Chanhassen Station. A shuttle bus will take riders from Southwest Village to the Chanhassen Station.

Route 687 from Target to the southwest suburbs: The 4:15 and 4:45 pm departures from Target North Campus will operate. The 5:15 departure will not operate.

The entire schedule for Thursday is posted on SouthWest Transit’s webpage at www.swtransit.org.

7:20 a.m. update: A great drive to work

Posted by: Tim Harlow Updated: February 20, 2014 - 7:22 AM

No news is good news, especially on the roads.  We have had no incidents or crashes to hold up commuters. It almost feels like a Saturday with light levels of traffic.

The usual squeeze is on for eastbound 94 drivers heading into the Lowry Hill Tunnel and for westbound 94 drivers from Hwy. 61 to downtown St. Paul.

Metro Transit buses and trains are on schedule.

Keeping tabs on Thursday's morning commute

Posted by: Tim Harlow Updated: February 20, 2014 - 5:34 AM

Good morning, commuters!

The drive to work could be interesting as the advertised storm begins to roll in at some point during the morning rush hour. The commute home will be an adventure.

RIght now roads are in fine shape. We have no crashes or delays at this time.

Look out for some re-freeze on ramps and bridge decks in locations where the temperature has dropped below the 32-degree mark.

SouthWest Transit has limited pick-up points this morning to its major park and ride lots. Get the details here.  Metro Transit recommends that riders take an earlier trip.

I’ll be keeping an eye on the roads and rails this morning, reporting any delays or issues — and I will need your help.

If you see or hear about any congestion, delays or problems, e-mail drive@startribune or tweet @stribdrive.

One in eight Minnesotans on the road don't have valid licenses

Posted by: Tim Harlow Updated: February 5, 2014 - 2:26 PM

A startling number of Minnesota drivers don't have a valid license and should not be behind the wheel.

A KARE-TV/MPR report found that approximately 1 in 8 drivers don't have driving privileges because their licenses have been suspended, revoked, canceled or disqualified. In some cases, they had no license at all. Yet they still drive.

Reporter Trisha Volpe analyzed court records between 2008 and 2013 and found that nearly 310,000 people have been convicted for driving when the law says they can't. In the Twin Cities metro area that number was 181,000 with scores of repeat offenders.

Volpe reported that motorists with invalid licenses are twice as likely as those with valid licenses to be involved in a fatal crash.

Driving without a valid driver's license doesn't carry much of a penalty. A ticket and a fine apparently isn't enough of a deterrent, says Jon Cummings of Minnesotans for Safe Driving.

"How do you keep people from getting gin the cars when they are not supposed to?" he asked in an interview posted MPR's website. "Driving is not a right, it is privilege and it can be taken away from you, and people do it anyway.  A lot of innocent people pay huge price for other people's lack of responsibility."

KARE-TV did the analysis following the high-profile case of Marion Guerrido, 23. She was the woman driving a vehicle that veered off the ramp leading from westbound Hwy. 7 to northbound Hwy. 100 and landed in a holding pond on the morning of Nov. 21.

She escaped the submerged vehicle, but the five children who were riding with her were found unresponsive after being rescued from car died. Two of them died.

Guerrido had only a driver’s permit and was required to have another licensed adult driver in the car. At the time of the crash, she did not.

5:35 a.m. update: Hwy. 169 shutting down in Brooklyn Park

Posted by: Tim Harlow Updated: January 30, 2014 - 5:42 AM

Authorities will be shutting down southbound Hwy. 169 at 77th Avenue to allow crews to deal with a fully engulfed car fire ahead at I-94.  The driver has been rescued.

Traffic is jammed in the area. If your normal route is on southbound 169, try County Road 81 south to 94.

Another road closure: Around the 6500 block of Humboldt Avenue in Brooklyn Center due to an apartment fire.

On the roads, look for a spinout on eastbound Hwy. 212 just before Dell Road in Eden Prairie. Another driver went off the road on the ramp from southbound Hwy. 252 to eastbound 694.

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