Commuters on westbound I-694 were fuming Wednesday while stuck in a massive traffic jam that lasted for most of the morning rush hour.
Gridlock conditions persisted well beyond 8 a.m. because the freeway was reduced to a single lane at the I-35W bridge. A couple of accidents and stalls also added to the bottleneck that stretched to Rice Street and at times to the 35E interchange.
Many thoroughfares that crossed 694 also were jammed.
Colder than expected temperatures played a factor.
According to a MnDOT spokesman, contractor PCI Roads of St. Michael, Minn. was using a "high early" concrete mixture while working on the right lane of the bridge overnight. The contractor assured MnDOT that the work would be completed by 5 a.m. and that lanes would be open in time for the drive to work.
"Temperatures were not as warm as expected, and that slowed the cure time down," said MnDOT spokesman Kent Barnard.
Temperatures this morning were hovering right around the freezing mark of 32 degrees.
The result is that the right lane did not open until 8 a.m., well after a major backup developed and had commuters spending upwards of 20 to 25 minutes to make their way from I-35E to I-35W. That is a six-mile stretch.
Other routes such as Lexington Avenue, which crosses 694 to the east of 35W, also were clogged for hours.
"It was a whole lot of traffic not getting where it wanted to go," Barnard said. "It was the perfect storm,a Murphy's Law-type of thing."
Barnard said PCI is working to complete all the work and get concrete in place before the weather becomes prohibitive.
Barnard said contractors have finished most of the work on 694 in the area of 35W, and that tonight's ride home and Thursday's ride to work should go much smoother. However, construction on ramps between 35W and Hwy. 252 will continue and there will be intermittent ramp closures.
The $21.1 million project which began in June is supposed to wrap up by the middle of next month. It included resurfacing 694 in both directions between 35W and Hwy. 100, replacing bridge decks over Hwy. 252 and repairing the drainage system under the road.