The end of the Super Bowl won’t bring an end to downtown traffic woes. A complete return to normal is still a couple of weeks out.
Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis will not reopen until the weekend and some streets near the stadium will be closed through the middle of February.
“It’s going to improve every day, is what I would say,” said Robin Hutcheson, Minneapolis director of Public Works. “Starting today at midnight, we’ll start reopening some streets around the stadium. Of course, there’s a lot of equipment, so the load-out does not happen overnight.”
Third Street, a key downtown entry point, was scheduled to reopen before rush hour Monday morning along with stretches of Portland Avenue, 5th Street and 6th Street, but the city warned commuters to plan for delays Monday morning and said parts of 6th Street, 11th Avenue and the Hiawatha Trail won’t reopen until the afternoon.
The Blue and Green light rail lines were slated to restore normal service by 3 a.m.
Nicollet Mall is now home to NFL Live installations including ice sculptures, a snowmobile ramp, the Birkebeiner International Bridge over 9th Street, an NBC studio and several booths from 6th Street to 12th Street. Tearing all that down will take the whole week.
“This next week is still going to be a challenge from a traffic flow standpoint,” said Steve Cramer, president of the Downtown Council. “Things just aren’t going to be automatically back to normal on Nicollet.”
The mall will be closed from Washington Avenue to 12th Street through Friday, as will 8th Street between La Salle and Marquette avenues. Intermittent lane restrictions will persist on 9th, 11th and 12th streets, and 9th Street at Nicollet will be closed most of Wednesday.
Hutcheson said she was “thrilled” with the way the newly designed Nicollet was used: “It’s an amazing piece of infrastructure that was used exactly as it was intended.”
Downtown leaders say the traffic hasn’t been as bad as many expected, but businesses did have to adjust, and they’re ready for all streets to reopen.
“Certainly folks are eager to get back to normal, to get Nicollet Mall opened back up,” said Jonathan Weinhagen, president of the Minneapolis Area Regional Chamber of Commerce. “More predictability moving around downtown will be welcome.”
Traffic signals downtown have to be reprogrammed. Streets immediately adjacent to the stadium — including blocks of 6th Street, 5th Street, 4th Street, Chicago Avenue and 11th Avenue — will be the slowest to return. They’ll be closed until Feb. 17.
“I want to thank people for how patient and accommodating they’ve been,” said Hutcheson. “We’ve had some days that were harder than others, but people have been so patient and adjustable, and that has made all the difference.”