Congestion along Cedar Avenue in the southern suburbs is already bad enough on weekdays, and it's only supposed to get worse, according to predictions by the Minnesota Department of Transportation.
On Wednesday, MnDOT officials will talk about three options that are on the table to keep traffic moving between Apple Valley and Bloomington, and improve access to the Cedar Grove Transit Station off of Hwy. 13.
They will present more information and solicit feedback during an open house from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Eagan City Hall, 3830 Pilot Knob Road.
The options being considered are:
- Adding a MnPass lane from 138th Street to Old Shakopee Road
- Adding what is called a MnPass Contra Flow lane from 138th Street to Old Shakopee Road
- A combination of a MnPass lane and a Contra Flow lane.
A MnPass lane would reserve a lane for drivers who have two or more people in their vehicle or pay a toll to drive in the lane.
A Contra Flow lane would help expand the highway's capacity by taking underused lanes and creating a lane where it is needed. As an example, during the morning commute, one of the southbound lanes would be used as a northbound HOT lane. In the afternoon, one of the northbound lanes would become a HOT lane.
The lanes would be separated by a moveable barrier that could easily be reconfigured to meet traffic demands.
In June the metro area's first Bus Rapid Transit line, known as the Red Line, started running along Cedar Avenue. That was one step taken to help reduce congestion along the corridor.
The managed lanes would be another. By adding them, MnDOT hopes to provide advantages for transit and carpools and provide a congestion-free choice for single occupant vehicles while utilizing existing infrastructure.
According to one study, MnDOT found that Cedar Avenue between 140th Street and the Minnesota River Bridge is subject to one to two hours of spot congestion during morning rush hours. It also found that the Minnesota River bridge is at capacity two hours a day during morning commutes.
Currently, motorists make more than 94,000 trips along Cedar Avenue each day. That number is expected to rise by 36 percent to 128,000 average daily trips in the next 20 years. Without any changes, MnDOT estimates that 14,000 current morning commuters will experience longer drives, unreliable commutes and increased potential for crashes.
The Dakota County Rail Authority also is participating in the study and research about managed lanes on Cedar Avenue.