Crews from Opus Group took advantage of Monday's unseasonably warm weather and a blow torch to redo lane markings on section of 4th Street in downtown Minneapolis where lines designating a lane shift had worn off leaving many motorists wondering where to drive.

Now pieces of bright white vinyl plastic have put down to guide motorists between Nicollet Mall and Marquette Avenue where the three eastbound lanes on 4th Street shift to the left around a construction site.

Although there are signs on both sides of the street alerting motorists about a lane shift, the lack of on-street markings has made the area adventurous as confused drivers or those not paying attention have unwittingly crossed from one lane to another and cut other motorists off.

In motorists' defense, the construction signs on 4th Street are somewhat hard to see. The one on the left side of the street is sometimes hidden by Metro Transit buses using the one westbound lane. The one on the right side of 4th Street blends in with the construction of the new Xcel Energy headquarters that has prompted the lane shift.

Opus, the contractor, painted lines on the street last fall to mark the traffic change, but those lines graduaually faded way. City spokesman Casper Hill said the city would not have been able to paint new lines until spring  because it's still cold and at this time of the year streets "usually are packed with snow."

The lack of lines was becoming a traffic hazard, and over the past few weeks the obliterated lines have led to a few near misses. Some drivers filed complaints with Minneapolis 311, the city's information and non-emergency line. The city then ordered Opus do rectify the problem, Hill said.

The contractor did on Monday, placing the vinyl tape lines, which should hold up through the duration of  project. That's when 4th Street will return to its former configuration.


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