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Passerby helped free mobile home stuck in I-494 construction zone

The Minnesota State Patrol says a huge thank you is due to the Good Samaritan who used his skid loader to move Jersey barriers and free a truck towing a mobile home that got stuck in a construction zone on I-494 in Maple Grove Monday night.

Traffic was blocked for nearly four hours when the extra wide load got wedged between barriers in the southbound lanes of I-494 near Bass Lake Road around 8:30 p.m..  The lanes reopened after midnight.

The State Patrol summoned the help of another motorist who had a skid loader and was passing through the area. That driver used the skid loader to open barriers separating the northbound and southbound lanes, allowing the truck towing the house turn around and head back north, said Lt. Tiffani Nielson of the State Patrol.

Traffic caught behind the blockage was routed up the entrance ramp at Bass Lake Road, Nielson said.

Nielson said the truck hauling the house was registered to Many Trails Company and was moving the home from Wisconsin to Willmar, Minn. Driver Roger Guex, 69, of Shawano, Wis., had a permit to haul a 14-foot wide load through the Twin Cities, but was not supposed to be in the construction area.  Freeway lanes are typically 12 feet wide, but lanes on I-494 through Maple Grove and Plymouth are 11 feet wide due to construction.

"He had a permit, but not to be in that area. They should not have been there," she said.  "It was too wide to pass.

Before the man with the skid loader showed up, Guex used his truck in an attempt to push the barriers aside, Nielson said. That caused damage to the mobile home.

Guex was cited for violating terms of a conditional permit and operating unsafe equipment.

Nielson said a preliminary incident report indicates that a letter of thanks be written to the person who stopped to help.

The Drive: Taxicabs in Minneapolis must accept credit cards

Serendipity was not on the side of a Minneapolis taxicab driver Saturday night when he refused to accept a credit card and told his passenger to pay with cash.

Bad move on the part of the cabbie, who lost his fare and was slapped with a $200 fine when an undercover business license inspector on a bicycle happened upon the scene as the transaction was going down.

All cab drivers are required to have credit card machines and accept plastic as payment. If they don't have the machines, the cabs can be taken out of service, said Jose Velez, an inspector with the city's Licenses and Consumer Services division.

"The vast majority of drivers do a good job and follow the rules,' Velez said. "They are hardworking and trying to put food on the table. I respect the job they do."

But every so often, Velez will catch one skirting the regulations.

It all played out when Star Tribune photographer Aaron Lavinsky hailed a Viking Cab at Historic Halls Island in northeast Minneapolis around 8 p.m. His destination was the paper's downtown headquarters. Lavinsky was quoted a $15 fare, which he says should have been closer to $11. Lavinsky handed his credit card to the cabbie, who in return tells him "cash only, no credit," and instructed the photographer to hit a nearby ATM.

As Lavinsky returns to the cab, Velez pulled up and noticed the cab illegally blocking a crosswalk. Lavinsky told Velez "that would not have been a problem if he took credit cards like everyone else in 2015."

That caught Velez's attention. Upon investigation, Velez found the driver did have a credit card machine in the car and was not displaying his Minneapolis taxi license. Velez cited the driver with a $200 fine and a warning notice.

"The driver should have taken the credit card; the transaction would have gone smoother," Velez said. "We are here to make sure cabs are meeting code. We're here to make sure they are following regulations."

A man who answered the phone at Viking Cab said his drivers do accept credit cards as required and didn't know why the driver did not.

Karma was on Lavinsky's side, as Velez the cab driver to cancel the fare.

"It was totally insane," Lavinsky said. "This guy was ripping me off, in this perfect moment this bicyclist rolls up and starts giving the cab driver crap. Turns out he was a cop. I was flabbergasted. Now I know why people like Uber and Lyft."