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Weekend traffic: Women's march in St. Paul, I-94 closure in Maple Grove

Organizers of Saturday's Women's March Minnesota are telling protesters, demonstrators and spectators to be ready for traffic delays, and it's advice motorists heading to or through St. Paul may want to heed. Or better yet, just avoid the area, city officials suggest.

The social justice rally - 20,000 or more people expected - coincides with a massive march in Washington D.C. and simultaneous events across the country, so look for it to be a traffic magnet.

Drivers using I-94 in Maple Grove are likely to experience delays, too. The Minnesota Department of Transportation will have the freeway closed to through traffic between the I-494/694/94 interchange and newly-opened portion of Hwy. 610 from 10 p.m. Friday through 5 a.m. Monday.

On the sports scene, the red-hot Wild  face off Saturday against Anaheim and Sunday against Nashville. Puck drops at 7 both nights at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

The University of Minnesota men's basketball team has a date with Wisconsin at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Williams Arena.

Traffic generating events at Target Center in downtown Minneapolis include country mega star Eric Church in concert Friday and the Red Hot Chili Peppers on Saturday.

Women's March

Warm weather by mid-January standards will likely swell crowds for the 10 a.m. gathering at St. Paul College (I-94 and Kellogg Blvd.), which will be followed by an 11 a.m. march down Concordia Avenue and John Ireland Boulevard to the State Capitol where an outdoor rally will be held on the south steps.

St. Paul city officials say the exit from eastbound I-94 to Kellogg Boulevard will be closed for 30 to 60 minutes beginning at 11 a.m. Saturday, as will both directions of John Ireland Boulevard between Kellogg Boulevard and Martin Luther King Boulevard. There could be other "brief" closures as participants cross intersections, said spokesman Joe Ellickson.

"Avoid the area around the State Capitol between 10 a.m. and noon and 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. if you are not a part of the Women’s March on Washington," Ellickson said.

Parking will be challenging as no parking is available the the college and is limited around the capitol. They encourage carpooling and using this map to identify parking locations. Public transportation is encourage, too. The nearest light-rail stop along the Green Line is Capitol/Rice Street Station. Bus lines stopping at the capitol or Minnesota History Center include Metro Transit routes 3, 16, 21, 62, 67, 68, 71 and 94.

I-94 closure

 

The freeway will be closed to through traffic between the I-494/694/94 interchange and newly-opened portion of Hwy. 610 from 10 p.m. Friday through 5 a.m. Monday. During the closure, westbound motorists will be detoured north on Hwy. 169 then west on Hwy. 610.  Eastbound drivers will be detoured east on Hwy. 610 and then south on Hwy. 169. Motorists will encounter lane closures beginning at 8 p.m

Local westbound traffic will be allowed to access exits at Hemlock Lane, Weaver Lake Road and Maple Grove Parkway, but MnDOT spokesman Kent Barnard said only drivers who absolutely need to use those exits should. And there will be no opportunity to access westbound I-94 at either exit, so motorists heading further west will need to use the detour, he said.

The 101st Avenue bridge is being removed since the new Highway 610 corridor runs along the former alignment of 101st Avenue between County Road 81 and I-94.

 

How should the improved High Bridge in St. Paul look? MnDOT is asking for opinions

The Minnesota Department of Transportation will put a new deck on the Smith Avenue High Bridge later this year, and in the process will upgrade its curb appeal.

That's where community members come in. MnDOT will host an open house to allow residents to provide input on aesthetic design options under consideration. The meeting will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Feb. 7 in the community room at Bad Weather Brewery, 414 W. 7th St. in St. Paul.

Work on the $22 million project is slated to begin in the fall and also includes resurfacing Smith Avenue/Dodd Road - also known as Hwy. 149 - between W. 7th Street and Interstate 494 in Mendota Heights. Five intersections along the route will get new traffic signals. A new left turn lane from westbound I-494 to southbound Dodd Road will be added. MnDOT also will improve drainage, build better sidewalks and upgrade pedestrian accessibility. Ash trees in the project area also will be removed.

All that work, of course, will mean the High Bridge will be closed for one entire construction season, from the fall of 2017 to the fall of 2018.