After a one day reprieve, drivers on westbound 694 got a taste of what life will be like for the next five months as the first lane closures went into effect in time for Tuesday's morning rush hour.
Two lanes of the freeway were closed between East River Road and Hwy. 100, and at times motorists experienced delays of up to 30 minutes.
Eastbound drivers enjoyed a second day without any lane closurers, but MnDOT officials promise that lane closings are coming. Spokesman Kent Barnard said starting at 7 tonight, eastbound traffic will be shifted to the two outside lanes between Hwy. 100 and just past East River Road.
Many drivers, hearing the dire predictions of gridlock, ventured off onto alternate routes. Traffic on westbound Hwy. 610 was heavier than normal as commuters from the northern suburbs opted to use that route to cross the Mississippi River.
The biggest surprise of the morning was on southbound Hwy. 169 where overnight road work at 49th Avenue left went longer than schedule. As a result, the left lane was closed, and commuters found themselves stuck in traffic for as long as 20 minutes. Backups stretched up to 77th Avenue in Brooklyn Park.
Back on 694, MnDOT says lane closures on both sides of the interstate in both directions will be expanded between I-35W and Hwy 100 and remain in effect until November.
Originally scheduled to begin on Monday, equipment problems forced a one-day delay with the start of the $21 million project that includes replacing bridge decks at the I-94/Hwy. 252/I-694 interchange and pavement repair.
Once construction ramps up, drivers will find lane the freeway down to two lanes in each direction from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily and one lane in each direction from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. daily.
The ramp from East River Road to westbound I-694 did close Monday night as originally planned and will remain closed until mid-October. Other ramps and loops will close at various times during the project, with closures lasting up to 10 days each.
No two consecutive interchanges will be closed so motorists will have access to and from the interstate at the next interchange from the one that is closed. The affected interchanges are at East River Road, Central and University Avenues, and Silver Lake Road. Closures will be announced in advance, MnDOT said.