Commuters feared gridlock in preparation for construction that has narrowed the freeway to two lanes in each direction.
Further lane restrictions on Day 2 of the Interstate 694 construction project brought more traffic delays Wednesday, but they were in line with what officials expected — and less than what some commuters anticipated.
Many had worried about gridlock after lanes were restricted in both directions beginning Tuesday night. When work began Tuesday morning, only westbound 694 had been narrowed, to two lanes, along a stretch from Fridley to Brooklyn Center.
At times Wednesday morning, traffic was moving better on the north metro freeway than on other roads, as commuters sought alternate routes.
“It kind of has a … ripple effect through the system in the area,” said Kent Barnard, spokesman for the Minnesota Department of Transportation.
During afternoon rush hour Wednesday, travel times for a 2.5-mile westbound stretch through the construction zone were around 10 minutes, according to MnDOT.
Commuter Garrett Stone stuck to his usual 694 route and was delayed about only 10 minutes during his morning commute from New Brighton to Plymouth — much better than the 30 to 40 minutes added Tuesday morning.
“I guess it varies from day to day, but today was just I guess a lucky day for me,” said Stone, 26. “It was actually a good commute, so no hassle for me.”
In Fridley, backups of vehicles getting onto the highway from entrance ramps were not as bad as on Tuesday, said Fridley Police Lt. Mike Monsrud. Drivers caught in backups on Tuesday probably sought alternate routes, he said.
The $21 million construction project has narrowed I-694 between East River Road in Fridley and Hwy. 100 in Brooklyn Center.
The project, which is expected to be completed in early November, includes replacing bridge decks at the I-94/Hwy. 252/I-694 interchange and pavement repair.
Traffic will be restricted to two lanes each way daily from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. and to a single lane every night from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Later this week or early next, lane restrictions will be extended eastward to Interstate 35W.
Monsrud said that so far, Fridley police have not had any complaints of drivers cutting through neighborhoods.
Brooklyn Center Police Cmdr. Tim Gannon said they haven’t had complaints either.
“We truly don’t believe they’ve found all the detours yet that they can find, so we haven’t really suffered yet,” Gannon said.
MnDOT’s Barnard said it will take about a week for people to adjust to the new lane restrictions.
Lydia Coutré • 612-673-4654