Metro-area highways and freeways will fill up Thursday morning and traffic might not lighten up until late into the night.

Thursday promises to be a busy day on the roads as the Twins, Gophers, Vikings and Saints have home games and the State Fair rolls on. All that will put thousands of extra vehicles on the roads, and that’s before considering those looking to get a head start on the long Labor Day weekend.

Metro Transit is expecting a record day of ridership, noting the current record day — 370,000 rides — happened a year ago, also a Thursday, when the same confluence of events occurred.

“It’s remarkable just how many people transit is able to move, especially when there are multiple major events happening in the region,” said Metropolitan Council Chair Alene Tchourumoff.

Drivers can expect some relief Thursday morning when the Lowry Hill tunnel returns to its normal configuration with lanes open on both sides of the tube. The ban on trucks and buses over 9,000 pounds from passing through was lifted Thursday morning, which should help ease the traffic crunch. But an overnight tunnel closure on westbound I-94 (from 10 p.m. Thursday to 5 a.m. Friday) could hamper the drive home, the Minnesota Department of Transportation said.

More than 160,000 drivers pass through the tunnel on an average weekday. On Thursday, that number could rise.

When the morning commute begins to wind down, fans will be making their way into downtown Minneapolis for a 12:10 p.m. Twins game at Target Field. Parking could be tight as fans will be fighting for spots with daily downtown workers.

About the time the game lets out — let’s hope it does not go extra innings — football fans will be streaming into Minneapolis. That will make the evening rush more challenging than usual as fans coming into downtown tangle with workers heading out.

Some streets near U.S. Bank Stadium will shut down ahead of the Vikings’ 7 p.m. game with Miami, so be prepared for downtown congestion. Drivers coming into downtown on east I-94 will find the ramp at 7th Street closed, so expect ramp jams on 4th Street.

At the U, streets immediately adjacent to TCF Bank Stadium will be partly or fully closed to accommodate large pedestrian volumes before and after the Gophers’ 6 p.m. game against Buffalo.

On its website, the U’s Parking and Transportation Service warned drivers to “anticipate congestion and delays while traveling to/from and around campus.” It added: “Carpooling and alternate methods (transit, bike, walk) are highly recommended.”

Because of the overnight closure in the Lowry Hill Tunnel, those downtown for the Vikings game can take 3rd Street from downtown to 94 west. Those coming from the State Fair, Gophers game or Saints game can take the detour south on I-35W to west Crosstown to north Hwy. 100 or plan another route to their destination, said spokesman David Aeikens.

Metro Transit will provide service to all five events. Fans can buy an All-Day pass for $3.50 to $4.50 good for travel to and from the games or the fair on buses, the A-Line and light-rail trains. There will be one inbound Northstar train for the Vikings game.


Tim Harlow • 612-673-7768

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