The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) spent three construction seasons and $185 million to improve traffic flow on Interstate 694 between Victoria Street and the Hwy. 10 interchange in Arden Hills.
From 2011 through 2013, motorists endured grueling commutes as the seemingly interminable I-694 North Central Project separated 694 traffic from Hwy. 10 traffic as lanes funneled vehicles onto the respective roads. It also eliminated a dangerous area in which motorists coming off northbound Snelling Avenue had to cross three lanes of traffic in a short distance to get onto westbound Hwy. 10.
But with all that work to add new lanes and get rid of all the bobbing and weaving that took place at the busy interchange’s previous configuration, reader Gloria thinks MnDOT left something out.
“I’m wondering why there is no exit for Snelling Avenue coming from the east on 694, going west. There is an exit for Snelling going east on 694. I travel this all the time. Am I missing something?”
No Gloria, you are not. At one time there was an exit on westbound 694 to Hamline and Snelling Avenue but it was taken out during construction, said MnDOT spokesman Kent Barnard.
“It was not well used and there were too many traffic conflicts there,” he said. “That is one reason we reconfigured the Snelling Avenue and Hwy. 10 interchange, and the entrance from Lexington Avenue to westbound 694. If there was another exit there, it would be too close together and lead to too many operational problems.”
MnDOT could have kept the exit to Hamline and Snelling, but that would have required another bridge up and over the new entrance from Lexington and lanes carrying traffic to Hwy. 10. That proved to be too costly and difficult because of the grade of the land, and the tight space would have made for too many movements, he said.
The solution for drivers going west on 694 who need to go south on Snelling Avenue or north on Hamline Avenue is to get off at Lexington Avenue and head north to County Road F, then west over to Hamline/Snelling. Drivers can also exit at Victoria Street to access County Road F.
Motorists heading north on Snelling Avenue wanting to go east on 694 have long been using the circuitous route as there is no ramp leading from Snelling to eastbound 694. They have been following the reverse route, taking County Road F east over to Lexington Avenue.
There is no ramp from northbound Snelling to eastbound 694 because the ramp would bring traffic onto the freeway too close to the off-ramp at Lexington. That would create too much weaving among entering and exiting traffic, Barnard said.
So here is a suggestion for MnDOT: To help motorists like Gloria, perhaps the words “To Hamline and Snelling Avenues” could be added to signs on westbound 694 announcing the exit to Lexington.
A lack of signage on northbound Snelling telling motorists how to get on 694 is noticeable, too.
Without the Hamline exit, traffic volume has increased significantly on Lexington.
Ramsey County has a project this summer to improve traffic flow on Lexington Avenue. It’s rebuilding the street north of 694, which includes adding a new traffic signal and double left turn lanes at County Road F. Right turn lanes will be added in both directions at 694.
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