Anybody leaving a Vikings game or large event at U.S. Bank Stadium knows that getting out of downtown on traffic-choked streets can be an unpleasant experience.

A new lane planned for 3rd Street on the north side of the stadium could ease that crush by giving drivers better access to nearby freeways, said Jeff Handeland, an engineer in the Minneapolis Transportation Engineering and Design division of Public Works.

It will be a “contraflow” lane, which allows traffic to go the opposite direction on otherwise one-way streets.

The lane will allow for two-way traffic on 3rd Street between Park Avenue and 11th Avenue S. — near the on-ramps to Interstates 35W and 94 — whenever 4th Street is closed. That’s often the case when events let out; 4th Street is blocked at Chicago Avenue to allow light-rail trains to pass and accommodate large numbers of pedestrians and bicyclists who fan out on Park and Chicago avenues.

The idea is to have more inbound traffic lanes available when fans are heading to events and more outbound lanes open when fans leave.

It won’t be a cure-all, Handeland said, but it should improve traffic flow near the stadium and cut down on conflict points with pedestrians and bicyclists.

“No one should expect the street grid to be free-flowing because of one improvement,” Handeland said. “Streets are going to be congested after events, but it will improve the transportation experience.”

Currently 3rd Street is one way with two lanes carrying traffic into downtown, and 4th Street is a one-way with two lanes carrying traffic out of downtown. The plan calls for building a crossover near the stadium’s loading dock to shift outbound traffic back over to 4th Street just before the exit leading to freeways and Hiawatha Avenue.

A temporary barrier will separate 3rd Street traffic from 4th Street traffic at the crossover when the contraflow lane is not in use. A gate that can be easily opened or closed and withstand crashes will eventually be installed when temporary barriers are removed.

The crossover and contraflow lane has been discussed ever since the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA), the group that runs the stadium, was tasked with creating a traffic management plan. Both the MSFA and the engineering firm WSP (formerly Parsons Brinkerhoff) deemed the plan feasible and beneficial for drivers.

As part of the project, a new flashing light system to aid pedestrians crossing 3rd Street at Norm McGrew Place will be installed.

The Minneapolis City Council signed off on the project Friday. Construction on the new lane will start this month and the city will spend about $300,000. The MSFA will reimburse the city.

Clearwater bridge open

The Minnesota Department of Transportation on Thursday opened the new Hwy. 24 bridge over the Mississippi River in Clearwater, Minn.

The new two-lane bridge carrying 16,000 vehicles a day — more on weekends when recreational travelers on I-94 use the bridge to get to Hwy. 10 — has wider lanes and shoulders than the 57-year-old bridge it replaces.

The existing bridge, a few feet upstream from the new bridge, will be torn down by next fall. MnDOT plans to resurface Hwy. 24 from I-94 to Hwy. 10 in 2018.


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