Motorists traveling on Interstate 494 in Bloomington and on I-94 north of downtown Minneapolis have noticed that many of the green glare screens atop concrete freeway medians have disappeared. Now bright lights from oncoming cars are shining in their eyes, and they'd like that to stop.
"The lights kind of bother us," one Drive reader said. "Fix them or take them all out."
The short response to both suggestions is no and no, said Minnesota Department of Transportation spokesman Kent Barnard.
Most of the green panels were installed in the 1970s and 1980s to shield drivers' eyes from the headlights of oncoming vehicles and prevent the temporary blindness that can result.
Over time, the thin flexible pieces have rusted out and broken off. Others have been hit by drivers or knocked down by snowplows, leaving gaps and reducing their effectiveness.
"We have no plans to replace them," Barnard said.
For starters, it is not cost effective, he said. But the bigger reason is that MnDOT is building taller medians. Back when many older medians such as those on I-494 between Bloomington and Eagan were put in, they were just 3 to 4 feet high. In recent years, as MnDOT has installed new barriers or replaced old ones, the agency has been building taller medians without glare screens.
"As we put in taller barriers, there is no need to have them," Barnard said.
What's happening on 7th Street?
Drivers caught in construction-related snarls along four blocks of 7th Street in downtown Minneapolis wonder what is being done and when they will get their lanes back.
Good news, commuters and downtown visitors: The work might be done as early as June 22.
Minneapolis is upgrading intersections with safety features at 3rd, 5th, Park, Portland, Chicago and 11th avenues as part of the Highway Safety Improvement Program. Specifically that means putting in pedestrian ramps that comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), curb extensions to shorten crossing distances for pedestrians, audible countdown pedestrian timers and traffic signals with mast arms.
While that is being done, some utilities are being moved, and Metro Transit is enhancing the bus stop near the Hennepin County Government Center. Look for a new shelter and electronic signs announcing bus arrival and departure information. The upgraded stop will be part of the new C-Line, a bus rapid transit line that will largely replace Route 19 and run primarily on Penn Avenue and Olson Hwy.
Over on 4th Street, the closure of the westbound lane reserved for buses has been delayed at least until later this summer. Metro Transit routes 3, 7 and 14 will continue to use the lane. Signs posted last week indicated the lane was to have closed Saturday and buses shifted to adjacent streets.
"Ultimately it will close," said Lisa Cerney, city engineer and deputy director of Minneapolis Public Works. "We need the utility company to focus on 8th Street to get all that work done ahead of construction."
The city will rebuild 8th Street between Hennepin and Chicago avenues starting in the spring of 2019.
Design and utility work on 4th Street will continue ahead of a redo set for 2019 and 2020.
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