Commuters have long suspected that metro area highways and freeways are getting congested more often - the current round of road work notwithstanding - and now comes evidence that their suspicions are true.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation said Thursday that congestion was up 2 percent last year when compared to levels reported in 2013, with traffic clogging the region's major arteries 21.1 percent of the time.
What that means is that compared to free-flowing conditions, motorists were traveling at 45 miles per hour or slower, the threshold that the department uses to define congestion. Over the course of a year, motorists on average were stuck in congestion 34 hours, the department said in its Metropolitan Freeway System Congestion Report.
According to a recent survey by the Dutch map-making and navigation company, TomTom, gridlock was most likely to occur on Tuesday mornings and Thursday evenings, and that Minneapolis-St. Paul was the 35th most traffic-riddled city in the United States.
MnDOT says that without additional investment in the transportation infrastructure, the percentage of time that freeways are snarled will increase by the year 2025 and the number of hours motorists spend driving in crowded conditions will rise to 45 hours a year.
Funding for roads and bridges has been a hot topic at the State Capitol this legislative session. Gov. Mark Dayton has proposed a transportation funding package that would increase the number of MnPASS lanes and provide additional transit capacity across the metro area. Both MnPASS lanes and an increase in transit use are partially credited for keeping congestion from growing more quickly, MnDOT said.
In efforts to mitigate the effects of congestion, MnDOT has also retimed hundreds of ramp meters to keep traffic flowing and used overhead message boards to warn drivers when congestion develops.
“The recent congestion figures confirm that congestion strategies we have in place are helping,” said Brian Kary, Metro District Freeway Operations. “Still, more needs to be done to alleviate congestion for the traveling public.”
Here are some more numbers from the report:
159: total number of congested freeway miles
Best places to get stuck in the morning:
• I-35W: 24 congested miles
• I-94: 23 congested miles
• I-494: 20 congested miles
Honorable mention: Hwy. 169 with 18.5 miles
Best places to get stuck in the evening:
• I-494: 27.5 congested miles
• I-94: 23.5 congested miles
• I-35W: 22.5 congested miles
Congestion: defined as places where motorists traveled 45 mph or slower.