There’s good news for travelers who plan on using Hwy. 10 through St. Cloud and Sauk Rapids over the Independence Day weekend as new permanent lanes on Hwys. 10 and 15 in the area will be open to motorists. That should help ease the congestion for legions of people heading northwest out of the Twin Cities and provide a decent alternate route for motorists looking to avoid the crush that develops on Interstate 94.
Unfortunately, road construction projects in the metro area and other parts of the state won’t be on holiday, and they could pose problems for travelers, especially on Friday afternoon and evening when popular getaway routes will be the most crowded. Sunday afternoon and evening will be a heavy travel period, too.
On the upside, motorists who do get caught in backups can take solace that gas prices are at their lowest level for an Independence Day holiday in the past five years, according to the nationwide motoring group AAA. On Thursday, the statewide average was $2.65 per gallon, compared with $3.58 last year.
As the holiday weekend revs up, the Minnesota State Patrol reminds motorists to drive safely and sober. Independence Day ranks as the third-deadliest holiday for drunken-driving deaths, accounting for 40 percent of all Minnesota traffic fatalities during that holiday period.
Construction-related traffic snarls could develop in these places:
• Motorists in southern Minnesota will find single-lane traffic on I-35 through Owatonna and along a 14-mile stretch between Ellendale and Albert Lea. The Minnesota Department of Transportation warns drivers to expect delays on Friday evenings and Sunday afternoons through the summer. I-90 is also single lane between St. Charles and Eyota and along a 20-mile stretch between Alden and Hwy. 253. Speed restrictions are in place in both zones. For drivers on Hwy. 169 in Jordan, the road is reduced to a single lane and a speed limit of 45 miles per hour is in effect between Hwy. 21 and Hwy. 282.
• In northern Minnesota, the eastbound Hwy. 2 bridge between Duluth and Superior, Wis., is closed. Duluth-bound drivers planning to use Hwy. 23 as an alternate to I-35 may want to think twice. Hwy. 23 is closed between Duquette and Pleasant Valley (near Wrenshall), and motorists will be sent on a 9-mile detour. Other hot spots include the closure of Hwy. 70 east of I-35 for drivers heading to Grantsburg, Wis., and Hwy. 10 down to a single lane in the Detroit Lakes area.
• For central Minnesota, in addition to the normal crush, narrow lanes on I-94 between Rogers and St. Michael will be enough to bog things down. Bypasses on Hwy. 169 on the south shore of Lake Mille Lacs could bring delays as could a detour on Hwy. 12 between Atwater and Litchfield.
• The metro area has its own cone zones, including on Hwy. 5 in the western suburbs. Closures in Waconia between County Road 10 and Oak Avenue and in Victoria between E. Scandia Road and County Road 11 could impact people heading to the Taste of Minnesota at the Carver County Fairgrounds. From the east, Hwy. 212 to Hwy. 284 to W. 3rd Street is a decent alternate.
Other spots to avoid are Hwy. 5 in the area of Fort Snelling. Bridge repair has the highway reduced to a single lane between Hwy. 55 and Davern Street. Several ramps and connections to Hwy. 5 also are closed.
The long-running lane closures on I-494 between the Fish Lake Interchange in Maple Grove and Hwy. 55 in Plymouth and on I-35E between Little Canada Road and downtown St. Paul have the potential to bring gridlock during peak travel periods. And work continues on Hwy. 100, which is reduced to two lanes in each direction between Cedar Lake Road and Excelsior Blvd. in St. Louis Park.
Other noteworthy closures include Snelling Avenue between University Avenue to south of I-94 in St. Paul, Hwy. 13 through Lilydale and Mendota, and Kellogg Boulevard in downtown St. Paul.
Escaping to Wisconsin on I-94? Be prepared for construction-related delays between Hudson and Menomonie and Elk Mound and Eau Claire.