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St. Paul's High Bridge to close for repairs for more than a year

Star Tribune photo: Leila Navidi

More detours are coming for St. Paul drivers when the Smith Avenue High Bridge closes on Sept. 5 and won't reopen until the fall of 2018.

Motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists who pass under the bridge connecting downtown St. Paul and Riverview Cherokee neighborhood can also expect delays during 16-month project that includes putting a new deck on the bridge.

Temporary lane closures on Smith Avenue between W. 7th Street and George Street will continue through August as crews prepare for the demolition of the current bridge deck.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation will hold open houses to explain the upcoming construction and traffic impacts from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Capital View Cafe, 637 Smith Avenue and from 5 to 7 p.m. Aug. 22 at Bad Weather Brewery, 414 W. 7th Street.

Reconstruction of the bridge deck is part of a larger project on Smith Avenue and Dodd Road, also known as Highway 149. Additional work on Smith Avenue and Dodd Road is scheduled to begin in spring 2018. This includes:

  • Resurfacing Smith Avenue and Dodd Road—Highway 149—between West 7th Street in St. Paul and I-494 in Mendota Heights.
  • Improving drainage, sidewalks and pedestrian accessibility.
  • Replacing signals at five Highway 149 intersections.
  • Constructing an additional left turn lane from westbound I-494 to southbound Dodd Road in Mendota Heights.

More information is available at www.mndot.gov/metro/projects/hwy149highbridge.

I-394 ramp closure: Traffic control agents to help with Hennepin Avenue gridlock during afternoon rush

The City of Minneapolis will station traffic control agents along Hennepin and Lyndale avenues near the Walker Art Center during the Monday afternoon rush hour to help keep intersections open and traffic moving, a city spokeswoman said.

Gridlock developed Monday morning in the area near the musuem as commuters attempted to get around the closure of the eastbound I-394 ramp to eastbound I-94 by using city streets.

But aside from the ramp leading from Hennepin Avenue to eastbound I-94, no huge traffic snarls developed on mainline roads during the first rush hour since the ramp leading from I-394 to eastbound I-94 was closed. Traffic on the proscribed detour route that sends drivers 15 miles along Hwy. 100, Crosstown and I-35W flowed well, the Minnesota Department of Transportation said.

A few MnPASS users found out the hard way they could not get to eastbound I-94. They were forced into downtown and had to use exits at 12th, 6th and 4th Streets and Washington Avenue. Still that did not put noticiable amounts of extra traffic on downtown streets, said city spokeswoman Sarah McKenzie.

"Roadways that have I-394 exits onto City of Minneapolis streets were flowing quite well," she said. "Traffic management staff will continue to monitor the traffic impacts of the ramp closure."

Gridlock developed around 7:45 a.m. on Hennepin Avenue between Dunwoody Boulevard and the split with Lyndale Avenue, and the ramp leading to eastbound I-94 backed up. But that was the biggest snarl on the system.

"It's going as expected," said MnDOT spokesman David Aeikens just after 8 a.m. Monday. "People planned ahead and prepared and did a nice job working through it. It is only day one, however. People need to keep picking their routes and allow for lots and lots of time."

The official detour takes drivers south on Hwy. 100, then east on the Crosstown and north on I-35W. That is a 15-mile detour.

MnDOT shut down the downtown Minneapolis ramp from eastbound Interstate 394 to eastbound Interstate 94 that deposits traffic into the Lowry Hill Tunnel Sunday night.  The ramp used by as many as 23,000 drivers a day will remain closed until Aug. 28.

The I-394 ramp shutdown is part of a summerlong project along I-94 that spans 9 miles between Nicollet Avenue in Minneapolis and the Hwy. 252 interchange in Brooklyn Center. MnDOT is repairing more than 50 bridges and repaving and rehabilitating the freeway that was originally constructed in the 1980s. That project will run through October, but work in the Lowry Hill Tunnel will wrap up by mid-September.