Drivers who use northbound Hwy. 169 in Bloomington will notice they have one fewer lane to use. The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) re-striped the highway over the weekend from the Bloomington Ferry Bridge to Pioneer Trail and returned it to its original configuration with two lanes.

MnDOT added an extra northbound lane on the shoulder of Hwy. 169 in the spring when flooding forced the closure of Hwy. 41 in Chaska, one of the few places motorists in the south metro can cross the Minnesota River. The shoulder lane on Hwy. 169 helped accommodate additional traffic during that time.

That’s been done in the past, too, but the extra lane was normally removed as soon as the waters receded. Not this year. Drive reader Kevin wondered why it had been that way all summer.

After the spring snowmelt, significant spring and summer rain pushed river levels up, so MnDOT held off, said MnDOT spokeswoman Christine Dufour.

Once the water no longer posed a flooding threat, MnDOT decided to wait and combine the re-striping job with a nearby paving project, Dufour said.

MnDOT is not keeping the extra lane because shoulders are not designed to carry large volumes of traffic, and they serve other important purposes, she said. Shoulders are used for snow storage in the winter, allow for rainwater to run off during the summer and provide space for emergency vehicles. Motorists whose vehicles break down can use shoulders for refuge.

“Therefore it is important that we restore Hwy. 169 to maintain these shoulders,” Dufour said.

With 2017 traffic counts showing that Hwy. 169 carries 98,000 vehicles a day between the Minnesota River and Pioneer Trail — with traffic jams common during the morning commute — a third lane would come in handy. But that’s not in the immediate future. MnDOT would have to study the social, economic and environmental impacts of adding a third lane, Dufour said. Plus, the agency would have to come up with the money, and “unfortunately, MnDOT does not have funding to expand Hwy. 169 at this time,” she said.

Plans for Hwy. 252 move ahead

Motorists who use Hwy. 252 in Brooklyn Park say the road is congested and has inadequate lighting, and that something needs to be done to address its biggest problem: crashes. The highway has five intersections ranked in the state’s top 100 in terms of cost in damages and injuries per crash.

MnDOT agrees.

“We have recognized the need for many years and heard from the public for many years,” said spokesman Kent Barnard.

MnDOT surveyed drivers last year to get feedback on plans to improve safety and reduce congestion by turning Hwy. 252 into a freeway. Now it’s asking for more.

The agency will hold meetings from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Brooklyn Park Community Center, 5600 85th Av. N., and from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Minneapolis’ Folwell Recreation Center, 1615 Dowling Av. N.

It’s asking citizens to weigh in on concepts that would add a MnPass lane on I-94 from 4th Street in downtown Minneapolis to Hwy. 252 and then continue along Hwy. 252 to Hwy. 610. The agency also is looking at how to reconfigure the five intersections controlled by stop lights and how any changes would affect traffic flow, mass transit and neighborhood accessibility.

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