Minnesota Department of Transportation officials say they will review policies that govern when lanes can be shut down after lane closures related to a sign replacement project on the Mendota Bridge during Wednesday's morning commute led to massive traffic jams.
The unexpected closures of the right lanes on both sides of the bridge over the Minnesota River had grumpy commuters caught in big back ups on the eastbound Crosstown and on westbound Hwy. 55 and 110 lashing out at MnDOT, wondering why a sign replacement project could not wait until rush hour was over.
@mndottraffic you have completely screwed most of rush hour today with your highway 55 Mendota bridge work. Why wasn't this done off hours— Adam Wilson (@flipwils11) May 6, 2015
According to the agency's manual, the contractor replacing overhead signs is allowed to shut down lanes during the peak travel periods provided closures are not within 500 feet of a traffic signal. Since they were well away from any traffic signals, "the contractor was allowed to close a westbound lane on the bridge," said spokesman Nick Carpenter.
The same held true for the eastbound lane closure.
While eastbound traffic on the Crosstown stacked up from 28th Avenue over to the Fort Snelling area, bigger bottlenecks developed for westbound traffic. Traffic on westbound Hwy. 55 was at a near standstill as far back as Mendota Heights Road near I-494 and drivers on westbound Hwy. 110 got stuck in the snarl as far back as I-35E.
MnDOT did open a second westbound lane about 8:30 a.m. to help ease the traffic jam.
Crews on Wednesday were working on setting concrete for steel posts that will be installed in the coming weeks. In wake of Wednesday's epic traffic jam, MnDOT said it would have two eastbound lanes open for the evening commute but said one westbound lane would be closed until 6 p.m. Both westbound lanes will be open during Thursday's morning rush hour, Carpenter said.
Going forward, "we will be modifying the lane closure manual to avoid future peak-time lane closures on Hwy 55 like the one this morning," Carpenter said.