Congestion is common at the intersection of Franklin and Hennepin Avenues in Minneapolis, but in recent weeks drivers have noticed that it has become much worse.

Apparently the light that controls southbound traffic on Hennepin has been short-cycling, meaning only a handful of cars are getting through one of the city's busiest intersections. The result is that traffic routinely backs up onto the ramp from westbound I-94 to Hennepin Avenue just outside Lowry Hill Tunnel in downtown Minneapolis, commuters have said.

It's caused many drivers to be impatient and that has led to bad driving behavior. Alex Rothman, who regularly uses the ramp got caught in a big backup earlier this week says he has seen drivers speed into any opening they can find to pass other motorists to get through. Others, he said, are running 'orange" lights to avoid having to wait for another light.

It turns out the traffic light is out of sync because it's running on a backup plan that's "not quite right," said Nick VanGunst, a Minneapolis City Engineer. The city lost communication with the controller that operates the light, so a backup plan that was programmed in to cycle the light took over.

According to recent counts, more than 3,800 vehicles a day use the ramp from westbound 94 to southbound Hennepin Avenue and more than 19,000 pass through the Franklin/Hennepin intersection.

The city is in the process switching out old equipment and installing new equipment to operate all city traffic lights. It recently completed work in the downtown area to allow for more successive lights to remain green and help traffic flow.

The intersection of Hennepin and Franklin was not in the current round of the retiming project. It will be as the city moves forward with its retiming project, but until then, the city will try to make "some temporary adjustments to make things flow better," VanGunst said.

VanGunst said he's received some complaints from drivers on Park and Portland avenues. The city has not started installing the new system in the area west of I-35W and south of I-94 down to 38th Street.

In the coming weeks, crews will be working in the area south of 46th Street between Cedar and Lyndale Avenues. But some areas of the city won't get the new traffic control system until next year.

VanGunst said drivers who have problems with traffic lights should call 311 or fill out a report on the city's 311 web site.


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