Good luck, Twin Cities Marathon runners and drivers. Anybody trying to get from here to there this weekend — on foot or by car — is going to need it.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation will shut down both directions of Interstate 35W between Crosstown Hwy. 62 and downtown Minneapolis from Friday night through Monday morning. It’s a weekend that features Sunday’s big 26.2-mile race between downtown Minneapolis and downtown St. Paul, along with a Vikings game Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium; Twins games Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Target Field; and a University of Minnesota football game Saturday at the U. And the Wild plays at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul on Saturday night.
Sporting events aside, I-35W already handles about 200,000 vehicles a day. So all that extra traffic will have to spread out on alternate routes, meaning drivers will be on an endurance test of their own.
“There is no real good time to close a major interstate, but it’s usually easier to do it on a weekend rather than during the week,” said MnDOT spokeswoman Denise Workcuff.
On most weekends, that’s likely true, but there might not be a worse weekend than this one to close the busiest freeway in the metro area.
On Sunday alone, more than 10,000 runners and thousands of their supporters, more than 60,000 Vikings fans and another 20,000 to 30,000 Twins fans will be streaming into downtown Minneapolis within a few hours of one another, with a major artery on the disabled list.
MnDOT said that it was aware of the events calendar but that it was moving ahead with the freeway closure in order to move utilities and prepare for the demolition of the Franklin Avenue bridge. That will bring another I-35W closure next weekend.
The work over the next two weekends is necessary, because the contractor is ready to start the job and pushing it back a week or two might mean some of it might not get done before winter sets in and the Super Bowl comes to town in February, Workcuff said.
The demolition of the Franklin Avenue bridge marks the start of a $240 million redo of I-35W between I-94 and Lake Street that will take four years.
Meanwhile, the Portland Avenue bridge over I-94 will be shut down at 5 a.m. Saturday.
MnDOT’s official I-35W detour in effect from 10 p.m. Friday until 5 a.m. Monday will take drivers along the Crosstown to Hwy. 100 and I-394.
Getting to the start line
On Sunday morning, the area on the east end of downtown Minneapolis from 5th Avenue S. to 11th Avenue S. and from S. 3rd Street to S. 7th Street will be closed as runners queue up next to U.S. Bank Stadium for the 34th annual marathon.
Race officials suggest that participants take the bus or light rail as that “will be the least stressful,” said Executive Director Virginia Brophy Achman.
Those who choose to drive are encouraged to scout out their routes long before race day and to consider “digging out their maps” to find their way to the start line. The gun goes off at 8 a.m.
Streets will be blocked off for the race until about 9 a.m. As they reopen, other streets around the stadium will shut down before the noon kickoff for the Vikings game against the Detroit Lions.
Other south Minneapolis routes remain blocked, too. The Cedar and Portland avenue bridges over the Midtown Greenway remain closed, eliminating those as viable north-south options. Hiawatha Avenue could see heavy levels of traffic.
With Franklin Avenue closed over I-35W, those drivers are being diverted to 26th and 28th streets, with Hennepin being a likely receiver of drivers trying to get into downtown Minneapolis.
Metro Transit’s ready
Large crowds can be expected all weekend on the other side of downtown as fans flock to Target Field for some rare meaningful late-season baseball. The Twins play their final game of the season at 2:10 p.m. Sunday. The team also plays Friday at 7:10 p.m. and Saturday at 6:10 p.m.
The city of Minneapolis will deploy an army of traffic control agents to help keep cars moving.
Metro Transit says it’s up for transporting those who’d rather not deal with congestion. The agency will have its full fleet of buses and trains at the ready all weekend, and especially on Sunday. It had its busiest day of the year when it provided 358,617 rides on Aug. 31 — a day when weekday commuters were joined by fairgoers and fans traveling to Twins, Vikings, Gophers and St. Paul Saints home games.
“We are ready,” said spokesman Howie Padilla. Asked about the confluence of multiple big events, he said: “We have a thriving metro area and this is what we do. For us, this weekend will be business as usual.”