When is a closed freeway exit ramp not a closed freeway exit ramp?
When it’s the Johnson Street/Stinson Boulevard/New Brighton Boulevard exit from northbound 35W, and highway officials decide we need an extra lane.
Hennepin County, State of Minnesota and City of Minneapolis transportation officials are planning an open house Tuesday, Oct. 25, 5-7 p.m. at the Northeast Recreation Center, 1615 Pierce St. NE, where residents can review and comment on the current preliminary layout of the project, updated noise modeling information and potential noise barrier locations.
The plan calls for permanently closing the southern portion of the Stinson and New Brighton Boulevard exit ramp. But part way through the next ramp to the north, the Johnson Street ramp, the lanes will be opened so motorists can reach the same destinations that the Stinson/New Brighton Boulevard exit ramp provided, as well as the Johnson Street ramp.
And, in that space bargain, they’re able to extract an extra northbound lane that will go from the Fourth Street SE entrance near the University of Minnesota east bank to the Johnson Street exit in Northeast.
As part of the same project, the Fourth Street South/Washington Avenue entrance on the other side of the Mississippi River will get a new ramp.
The project cost is estimated at $13.5 million. State and federal funds are set to cover $9.5 million, and the City of Minneapolis and Hennepin County are planning to split the remaining $4 million. The City of Minneapolis plans to take its $2 million share from previously-allocated but unused Municipal State Aid funds, according to a memo from the city’s Transportation Planning and Engineering department.
Officials plan to send the project out for bids in February, begin construction in April, and have most of the work done by the end of November (all 2012).
“The demand to access northbound I-35W from Downtown Minneapolis exceeds the capacity of existing direct (Washington Avenue) and indirect (Hennepin or 3rd Ave Bridge to University/4th Street) routes,” the city memo said. “This is especially evident during afternoon peak periods when Washington Avenue is routinely congested several blocks back from the left turn access to 35W north.”
According to Hennepin County information, the project “provides an auxiliary traffic lane from University Avenue SE to the Stinson Boulevard NE exit. Auxiliary lanes are located at the outer edge of the roadway for use in speed change, lane weaving, maneuvering of entering and exiting traffic, truck climbing, and other purposes supplementary to through traffic. Auxiliary lanes generally extend from one entrance ramp to an exit ramp and allow drivers more decision time to make maneuvers onto or off of the freeway. In general terms, one can think of an auxiliary lane as a place that allows drivers to enter the freeway directly into a temporary lane and/or exit in a temporary lane with more decision time than a traditional ramp connection.”
Members of the Windom Park Citizens in Action neighborhood organization met recently and expressed concern that the current backups at the Johnson Street exit would get worse with increased and more concentrated traffic, according to the group’s staff person Gayle Bonneville. They plan to suggest better signage to encourage motorists to use Stinson and New Brighton Boulevard, and possibly a trial closure of the Stinson/New Brighton Boulevard ramp to see how it affects traffic on the Johnson Street exit.