A portion of Cedar Avenue running through south Minneapolis has a new look, and drivers are asking why.

The heavily traveled thoroughfare running through the Cedar-Riverside and Phillips neighborhoods was recently re-striped between Hiawatha Avenue and E. 38th Street.

Before the new paint was put down over the past few weeks, Cedar featured two travel lanes in each direction. The new configuration has only one traffic lane in each direction with a designated parking lane on both sides of the street. Left turn lanes were also put in at key intersections with high left-turn traffic to enhance safety, said Minneapolis city spokeswoman Sarah McKenzie.

Drive reader Pat seems to be on board with the layout.

"It looks like they intended to change the southbound traffic to one way with appropriate left hand turn lanes. Good idea," Pat wrote in an e-mail.

But there is a big problem, Pat noted.

"However, no one seems to have gotten the message. People are regularly driving in what is now the parking lane and if you try to comply with the new configuration things get all balled up at 26th and Cedar."

Change is hard, especially for motorists who besides going off muscle memory may be doing any number of things behind the wheel. Hennepin County spokesman Colin Cox tells the Drive there have been some complaints about motorists disregarding markings.

"It is new. It may take a while for drivers to get used to it," he said.

Cox said putting up more signs to announce the change does not always lead to the desired behavioral change. He said crews will soon be adding more diagonal striping to help motorists more easily identify the parking lane.

Drivers can blame deteriorating pavement for the new configuration, which is a joint effort between Minneapolis and Hennepin County. Leaders didn't want motorists to be regularly driving on crumbling pavement near the curb, so they turned it into a parking lane, Cox said.

Cox said the arrangement may not be permanent and that Cedar could return to its former layout when the street is resurfaced or rebuilt. There is no timetable for that, so it looks like the new configuration will be in place for a while.

County and city staff will observe traffic flow and gather data with the new configuration in place to gauge how it is functioning, McKenzie said.

Traffic light installed at 185th Street and Natchez Avenue

Call it an early Christmas present for southwest metro residents who for a couple of years had been wanting Scott County to put up a traffic signal at 185th Street and Natchez Avenue.

The county flipped on the power switch on Tuesday, said highway engineer Tony Winiecki.

Earlier this year, the County Board approved $465,000 for the signal.

Winiecki said the county Transportation Department looked at various options for traffic control at the intersection in Credit River Township, where Minnesota Department of Public Safety records show there have been 17 crashes since 2006, including two that resulted in fatalities.

The county considered a roundabout or a modified median that would have prevented northbound and southbound drivers on Natchez from crossing through the intersection. Ultimately, the department opted for a traffic signal.

Follow news about traffic and commuting at The Drive on startribune.com. Got traffic or transportation questions, or story ideas? E-mail drive@startribune.com, tweet @stribdrive or call Tim Harlow at 612-673-7768.