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Right turns across LRT tracks now legal at 5th and 5th, but don't get used to it

For the past few months, motorists traveling west in the left lane on 5th Street in downtown Minneapolis have been allowed to make right turns across the light-rail racks onto northbound 5th Avenue.

But don't get used to it. Once construction on the Downtown Commons is complete, the intersection will go back to its previous configuration in which turns across the light-rail tracks were prohibited, said Minneapolis traffic engineer Allan Klugman.

A temporary signal with a right-turn arrow was put up this spring when the right lane of 5th Street was blocked off when work on the park across from US Bank Stadium began. All traffic was forced to use the left lane, or the one immediately adjacent to the Minneapolis Armory. To facilitate traffic flow and reduce inconvenience to motorists, the city added the right-turn arrow and re-timed the lights "to get traffic across safely," Klugman said.

In the past, only motorists in the far right lane were allowed to turn right at 5th Street and 5th Avenue. Motorists in the left lane were not allowed to make any turns and were required to continue westbound, then make a left at 4th Avenue by the Hennepin County Government Center. 

Yet it was a common practice, as drivers caught on the wrong side of the tracks turned anyway, crossing train tracks and another lane of traffic to head north on 5th Avenue. And many times, the prohibited maneuver ended with a vehicle-train mishap.

Between 2004 and 2013, there had been 74 incidents on the Blue Line and 12 percent of those occurred at 5th and 5th, making it the more dangerous intersection along the line. And that was before the Green Line began service.

So before you get used to making right turns from the left lane at 5th and 5th, hear this loud and clear. "It's a temporary condition," Klugman said. "When construction on the west side of the park finishes, then it will revert back to its previous use."

And that means no right turns from the left lane.

While we are on the topic of stoplights, you may have seen many downtown stoplights are being replaced. The city has rebuilt many intersections and is putting up new signals mounted on mast arms.

"They cut down on right-angle crashes," Klugman said. That's a nice way of saying T-bone wrecks, which are the most dangerous type of crash. The old signals on the side of the road were not the easiest to see and could easily be obscured by large trucks or missed by drivers not paying attention.

The new lights "address visibility and safety," Klugman said. "We've put in about 100 or more of them across the city and they have cut right-angle crashes by 60 to 80 percent."

Weekend traffic: Vikings training kicks off, I-35W closes but Hwy. 100 is open

After getting a look at the Vikings' new stadium last week, fans will get their first look at the team as training camp kicks off in Mankato. But getting there won't be easy. Highway 169 is closed between St. Peter and Mankato, so drivers will have to use Nicollet County Road 13, Hwy. 99 or Hwy 22 as an alternate routes.

For a change, both directions of Hwy. 100 through St. Louis Park will be open. Yes, you read that right. Take advantage as it's only a one-week reprieve as closures will resume next weekend. The big metro area closure is on Interstate 35W through New Brighton and Roseville. The southbound lanes will be shut down from 10 p.m. Friday until 5 a.m. Monday between Interstate 694 and Hwy. 36. All ramps to and from southbound I-35W, including I-694, County Road D, Highway 88, County Road C and Highway 36 will close at 9 p.m. and lane closures will kick in at 7 p.m.

Traffic generating events include Twins games Friday through Sunday at Target Field in downtown Minneapolis and the Twenty One Pilots show Friday and the 5 Seconds of Summer tour Sunday at the Xcel Energy Center in downtown St. Paul.

If you are heading to the Loring Park Art Festival either Saturday or Sunday, remember Hennepin and Lyndale avenues near the Walker Art Center is under construction.

Here is your guide to this weekend’s road construction:

1. I-494 in Plymouth: Traffic between Fish Lake Road in Maple Grove and Hwy. 55 in Plymouth is to two lanes each direction until Nov. 4.

2. Hwy. 100 in St. Louis Park: No full closures, but both directions are reduced to two lanes between 36th Street and I-494. The 77th Street bridge over Hwy. 100 is closed.

3. I-394 in Golden Valley: Overnight lane closures between Hwy 100 and I-494 and rough pavement along that stretch, too.

4. I-35W in Roseville: Southbound lanes will be closed from 10 p.m. Friday until 5 a.m. Monday between I-694 and Hwy. 36. Watch for lane restrictions near County Roads E2 and H.

5. I-694 in Shoreview: Westbound traffic has two lanes separated by a concrete barrier between I-35E and Lexington Avenue.

6. I-35E in the northeast metro: Intermittent lane closures between County roads 96 and J. County 96 is single lane from Centerville Road to White Bear Parkway.

7. Hwys. 61 and 97 in Forest Lake: No access to eastbound Hwy. 97 from Hwy. 61. Single lane in both directions of Hwy 61 between the north intersection of Hwy 97/Scandia Trail and 202nd Street.

8. Hwy. 8 in Franconia: Closed between the south junction of Hwy. 95 and downtown Taylors Falls.

9. I-94 from St. Paul to Maplewood: The left westbound lane between Mounds Blvd and Century Ave. is permanently closed through early August. The left eastbound lane is closed from 4 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. weekdays and Saturdays until Aug. 19.

10. White Bear Avenue in St. Paul: Closed between Beech Street and I-94.

11. I-35E in St. Paul: Intermittent lane closures in near St. Clair Avenue and between I-94 and Maryland Avenue.

12. Hwy. 36 at Lexington Avenue in Roseville: Traffic shifted to a bypass on the south side of Hwy. 36. Ramps at Lexington Avenue are closed.

13. I-35W in Minneapolis: The following bridges over I-35W have lane closures: Westbound Hennepin Avenue, eastbound Broadway Street and northbound Johnson Street.

14. Franklin Avenue in Minneapolis: The bridge over the Mississippi River is closed until Labor Day. Nearby: Minnehaha Avenue closed 34th Street to Lake Street. Utility work at 31st Street.

15. Hwy. 5 in St. Paul: Single lane in both directions over the Mississippi River near Fort Snelling for bridge repair.

16. Hwy. 13 in Lilydale: Closed between Wachtler Avenue and Sylvandale Road until Sept. 2.

17. Hwy. 3 in Farmington: Alternating lane closures between Hwy 50 in Farmington and 179th Street.

18. Hwy. 61 in Denmark Township: Occasional lane closures in both directions from just north of Hwy 10 to just south of 127th Street.