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The 16- to 18-month study will compare three alternatives: Adding a permanent fourth northbound lane to Cedar, in the form of a MnPass lane, from 138th Street in Apple Valley to Old Shakopee Road in Bloomington, using some of the median of the highway and the shoulder on the river bridge; building a MnPass reverse-flow zipper lane between Apple Valley and Bloomington using one of Cedar’s southbound lanes; and a combination of the two, with a MnPass lane starting on the northbound side of Cedar in Apple Valley, then crossing over the freeway median at Diffley Road in Eagan into a zipper lane up to Bloomington.
A new lane to assist the southbound lanes in the afternoon is not under consideration because the evening rush hour is more spread out and congestion is not as intense, Solberg said.
There’s also a concern that adding a lane in the southbound direction would pipe congestion into downtown Apple Valley.
A key question is whether the traffic from the contra flow lane can be added back into northbound traffic at Old Shakopee Road without bogging down traffic there and at I-494.
“We don’t want to create more of a headache than we are trying to solve,” Solberg said.
Staff and elected officials from Dakota County, Apple Valley, Eagan, the Minnesota Valley Transit Authority and Metropolitan Council are serving on advisory groups for the study and would be expected to come to consensus on a preferred plan that MnDOT and the county would recommend to Federal Highway Administration.
Egan said he prefers an alternative with as little shifting of traffic as possible as well as an improved design for the Cedar Grove station access.
Apple Valley City Council Member Clint Hooppaw said congestion on Cedar creates problems for the Apple Valley business district.
“Not only do we want the bottleneck out of Apple Valley, but we want people to get to their destinations quickly. I wish it wasn’t 18 months of more discussion. I wish we could move quickly.”
Because it would be the first zipper lane in the state, Hooppaw said he has some concerns about how it would operate in a big snow.
Possibly making the extra lane a MnPass pay lane is an option the city is willing to accept, Hooppaw said.
Some people are saying “I just want to get north more quickly and I don’t care about [having to pay] the buck and a half.”