The Drive will keep you up to speed with the latest on Twin Cities commuting.

Thursday's Wabasha Street Block Party is fete with a purpose

Posted by: Tim Harlow Updated: July 23, 2014 - 6:07 PM

It's going to be midday block party on Wabasha Street Thursday with lots of festivities from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. from Kellogg Blvd. to Exchange Street.

But since this is a transportation blog, the Drive is going to focus one of the reasons for the shindig: improving bicycling in downtown St. Paul.

There are not a lot of great places to ride in downtown, something city leaders have set out to address. Earlier this year, St. Paul started working on a policy to develop bike corridors to increase cycling for transit and recreation purposes.

One idea being floated is a downtown loop that would circle the business district much like the Cultural Trail for bikes and pedestrians does in Indianapolis. The loop, as proposed now, would run on Kellogg Boulevard and Jackson, 10th and St. Peter streets, and connect to the nearby Gateway, Bruce Vento and Samuel Morgan regional trails.

 But business owners and others have written letters in efforts to get loop moved from St. Peter Street to Wabasha Street, said Stephanie Weir, a spokeswoman for St. Paul Smart Trips, a nonprofit that works to improve transportation and accessibility.

At Thursday's Wabasha Street Block Party, a short segment of Wabasha Street, 5th to 7th Streets to be exact, will be converted into a protected bike lane to show how the loop would work on Wabasha.  (Bring your own and try it out, or take a free ride using a Nice Ride Bike.)

The idea behind the bike lane and the party itself  is to show  a future Wabasha that "is more pedestrian, bike and business friendly," Weir said.

On the entertainment front, a New Orleans jazz band will march down Wabasha. Party goers will be able to make their own sound by using drums, noise makers and percussion instruments in a "Social Jam Session" led by Ross Hackenmiller.

A similar event called the "Future of Fourth" was held earlier this year.

Photo credit Mark Kartarik, Future of Fourth

Larpenteur Avenue bridge over I-35E set to open Wednesday

Posted by: Tim Harlow Updated: July 23, 2014 - 12:07 PM

It was just two weeks ago that MnDOT crews successfully pushed the Larpenteur Avenue bridge over I-35E into place. Tonight, motorists will be able to use it.

Officials tell the Drive that the new bridge will be open "by end of the day Wednesday."

This was one of the more interesting bridge projects in recent times. The new 3.5 million-pound deck and beams was built on a temporary structure immediately north of where the old bridge was. MnDOT used hydraulic jacks to push the new bridge 84 feet onto the newly constructed new piers and abutments.

Once in place, crews had to finish paving the intersections and complete the sidewalks along the 184-foot span.

The Larpenteur Avenue bridge is part of a long-running project that includes adding a new MnPASS lane to the current three lanes between Little Canada Road and Maryland Avenue, rebuilding bridges along that stretch and resurfacing the freeway.  Work also continues on rebuilding I-35E between Maryland Avenue and University Avenue.

Speaking of that, here's a reminder that the ramp from westbound I-94 to northbound 35E in downtown St. Paul will shut down around midnight and remain closed for 30 days. You can read about the traffic impact on yesterday's blog post, which includes a map of the suggested detours.  .

PHOTO: MnDOT

Torchlight Parade brings closure to Hennepin Avenue, downtown streets

Posted by: Tim Harlow Updated: July 23, 2014 - 9:11 AM

The Minneapolis Aquatennial's CenterPoint Energy Torchlight Parade is always a summer favorite, and tonight the floats, bands, costumed characters and Grand Marshal Chris Shaffer of WCCO-TV Weather Team will make their way down Hennepin Avenue.

There is also the LifeTime Fitness 5K before the parade. As a result, Hennepin Avenue and a number of cross streets will be closed. Here is how those events will affect traffic:

From 7 to 10:30 p.m. or when the parade ends, Hennepin Avenue will close from Dunwoody Blvd. to S. 3rd Street. Traffic will be able to cross Hennepin Avenue at 6th Street, 10th Street, 11th Street, Maple Street/16th Street and southbound on Lyndale Avnenue.

Additionally, Dunwoody Blvd. will be closed and so will the ramp from eastbound 394 to Dunwoody Blvd.

In addition, the following streets will be closed from 7 to 8:30 p.m.:
•    South 3rd Street, from Hennepin Avenue to Portland Avenue
•    Portland Avenue, from South 3rd Street to 2nd Street South
•    2nd Street South, from Portland Avenue to 11th Avenue South
•    11th Avenue South, from 2nd Street South to West River Parkway
•    West River Parkway, from 11th Avenue South to Portland Avenue.

Metro Transit routes 4, 6, 12, 61 and 141 will detour between 4:45 and 11:59 p.m. Most will run on Nicollet Mall from 12th Street to Washington Avenue.  Here are the specifics.

9 a.m. update: Rush hour wrap up

Posted by: Tim Harlow Updated: July 23, 2014 - 9:02 AM

The drive to work Wednesday was anything but a picture postcard day as a slew of crashes hampered the commute. The action got started early with a wreck at 5 a.m. with a rollover on Hwy. 10 at Armstrong Blvd., and thing got worse from there.

Commuters on southbound 35W had to dodge four separate accidents in the area between Lake Drive and County Road J. Just as one cleared, another occurred, and that kept traffic jammed from Lexington Avenue to 694 from just after 6 a.m. to 8:30 a.m.  Drive times to Minneapolis hovered around 30 minutes.  At this hour, that drive is now down to 22 minutes.

Another trouble spot was on southbound Hwy. 100 through Golden Valley and St. Louis Park. A motorist stalled out in the left lane at 27th Street and simply walked away from the car. The vehicle sat in the left lane for nearly an hour from about 7:30 to 8:30 a.m.  Toss in a couple crashes in the backup and that had traffic tied up back to County Road 81.  Things are starting to thin out at this hour.

Other wrecks on northbound 35W at 106th Street and a short-lived one at 36th Street made for a difficult drive into downtown Minneapolis. Both have since cleared and traffic is recovering. It's a reasonable 21-minute trip from the Burnsville split to downtown at this hour.

The westbound Crosstown plugged up just after 8 a.m. due to a wreck near Hwy. 100. Motorists were riding the brakes from Penn Avenue past the scene, a 20-minute trip. That crash is now gone and travel times are dropping.

The extremely active rush hour also featured crashes on westbound 494 at Pilot Knob Road that blocked two lanes and fender benders late in the rush on westbound 94 at Lexington in St. Paul and 5th Street in Minneapolis.

East metro and northwest metro drivers sailed right along and avoided the hassles many drivers experienced.

Transit ran on time today.

That's it for Wednesday. Join me back here tomorrow for more live traffic reports. And check out the blog for details on the new 35E ramp closure, the opening of the Larpenteur Avenue bridge and Aquatennial parade closures.

8:40 a.m. update: Current drive times

Posted by: Tim Harlow Updated: July 23, 2014 - 8:42 AM

The stalled vehicle on southbound Hwy. 100 at 27th Street has finally been towed away. Unfortunately, the tow didn't take delays with it. It's still a crammed drive from County Road 81 to Hwy. 7.

A crash on westbound 94 at Lexington Avenue is a thing of the past, but ahead, look for an ambulance on the right shoulder at a crash scene at 5th Avenue in downtown Minneapolis.

The latest incident is on northbound Cedar Avenue at Killebrew Drive by the Mall of America. That's adding a couple minutes to the drive.

Here are some current travel times:

North metro

Southbound 35W from Forest Lake Split to downtown Minneapolis: 22 minutes

Southbound 35E from County J to I-94: 14 minutes.

Eastbound Hwy. 10 from Hwy. 169 to 35W: 12 minutes

Westbound 694 from 35E to Hwy. 252: 11 minutes. Eastbound is 10 minutes.

West metro

Eastbound 94 from Hwy. 101 to 494: 9 minutes

Southbound 494 from 94 down to 394: 9 minutes

Eastbound 394 from 494 to 35W via 94: 11 minutes

Southbound Hwy. 169 from I-94 to Crosstown: 18 minutes

Southbound Hwy. 100 from I-94 to Crosstown: 30 minutes

South metro

Northbound 35W from County 42 to Crosstown: 15 minutes    To downtown Minneapolis: 23 minutes.

Northbound Cedar Avenue from 35E to the Crosstown: 13 minutes

Northbound 35E from County 42 to downtown St. Paul: 24 minutes

Northbound 169 from Canterbury Road to 494: 11 minutes

Eastbound Hwy. 212 from Dell Road to Crosstown: 11 minutes

Westbound 494 from Cedar Avenue to Hwy. 100: 21 minutes.  Eastbound 494 from Hwy. 169 to 35W: 9 minutes

Westbound Crosstown from Cedar Avenue to Hwy. 169: 20 minutes   Eastbound Crosstown from Hwy. 100 to Cedar Avenue: 12 minutes

East metro

Westbound 94 from Manning Avenue to downtown St. Paul: 18 minutes

Westbound 94 from 35E to the Lowry Hill Tunnel: 13 minutes.

Westbound Hwy. 36 from Edgerton Street to 35W: 11 minutes.

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