A fatal crash on County Road 46 near Hwy. 52 in Dakota County killed a woman and backed up traffic Thursday afternoon as the afternoon rush hour was getting underway in the Twin Cities.
The crash resulted in the southbound ramp from Hwy. 52 to County Road 46 being closed early in the evening, the Dakota County Sheriff's Office said.
No other details about the crash were available late Thursday.
Another crash that caused problems for drivers was on Hwy. 169 in Shakopee, where a motorist making a U-turn struck a state trooper's squad car.
The trooper, who was parked on the road’s right shoulder while making a traffic stop, was not injured. The driver making the U-turn suffered serious injuries and was taken to Hennepin County Medical Center, according to the State Patrol.
The crash, which backed up traffic for miles, began when a driver tried to make a U-turn in the traffic lane of Hwy. 169, south of County Road 21. The vehicle was struck broadside by a northbound vehicle before it hit the trooper’s car. No other information was available early Thursday evening.
Thursday morning, a Metro Transit riders in downtown Minneapolis fared better Thursday as commuters grappled with congestion on downtown streets for a second straight day. While some riders experienced 15 to 20 minute delays, “there were not hours long delays like we had yesterday,” said spokesman Howie Padilla.
Dry roads also helped loosen the knot that turned streets into gridlock yesterday as commuters navigated around the closure of 5th Street and Hennepin Avenue where new light rail tracks are being installed. That work is part of an 11-day shutdown of light rail in downtown Minneapolis that have added extra buses to city streets to get riders into the downtown core from the mandatory exit at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Thursday morning traffic stacked up on key entry points into downtown during the peak of the rush, on 7th Street off I-94 and Cedar Avenue, 11th Street off westbound I-94 and 4th Street off eastbound I-94.
But delays did not appear to be as epic as Wednesday.
Metro Transit didn’t deploy extra buses to help move passengers along, saying putting more equipment on the streets would have only added to the problem.
Padilla said the project at 5th and Hennepin should be done by Monday. And with the July 4 holiday coming up, he hoped traffic levels would begin to drop off Thursday and Friday.
The city of Minneapolis said it would deploy extra traffic control agents to keep intersections clear. It also said it would lift nonessential construction to open up lanes, though it offered no specifics on which projects would be lifted.
And many commuters took to Twitter to blame the city for the seemingly never-ending construction downtown. Beyond the light rail shutdown, an array of projects large and small have added up to driver frustration. On the eastern end, there’s the new Hennepin County Medical Center ambulatory building just south of the main hospital. On the northern end, Hennepin County is working on Washington Avenue and on the western end, there’s LRT and Nicollet Mall, which continues to close lanes to cross traffic.
In addition, utility work is ongoing everywhere. In all, it’s a whole lot of single lane closures that pinch traffic throughout the grid and frustrate drivers in their quest to bust out of the backup and find a smooth roll.
Minneapolis City Council President Barb Johnson said a Wednesday meeting on the new minimum wage started 30 minutes late because everyone was late. Her own commute, normally about 10 minutes from Victory Memorial Drive, lasted 40 minutes. She rerouted to Washington Avenue from her usual I-94 because of congestion related to the Lowry Hill Tunnel being reduced to two lanes each way. But Washington Avenue was crowded with other alternate-route seeking drivers.
“Everybody’s got their projects and people do work together to try to make the projects not compete,” she said of the road work, adding that there is a lot going on. On her side of town, the bridge and ramp repairs stretch from the tunnel to I-694. Traffic has been wild for weeks, she said.
The city put more traffic patrol officers on the streets Wednesday. Ten extra officers were out for the morning commute. Two more were added for the evening drive, a spokesman said.
But Johnson wanted to manage expectations. “In some ways that makes people feel better, but, again, there’s X number of cars trying to get through a space,” she said.
“It was tough for everybody, and we get that,” Padilla said of Wednesday’s gridlock. “Frankly, we’re looking forward to Monday and our work is done.”
Alas, that won’t be the end of jaw-clenching commutes.
Johnson remarked that the “Armaggedon” of all road projects begins soon enough on the commons area: road and bridge maintenance and upgrades on I-35W to 94 westbound through Loring Park. The MnDOT project begins in September. It will last four years.
Late in the morning, MnDOT reported a traffic slowdown on Interstate 35W southbound at 76th Street for a less conventional reason: Ducks on the road, which later were reported to be geese.
Staff writers Rochelle Olson, Mary Lynn Smith and Karen Zamota contributed to this report.