Friday, August 03, 2007

Unleash the Practice Freeway II 

In this post yesterday I called for an end to the crippling of the Practice Freeway.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press reports this morning that:

"Drivers of semi-trucks loaded with freight found themselves stuck in congestion Thursday on detours around the collapsed Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis, part of a major artery through town, delaying loads and prompting a trade group to appeal to Gov. Tim Pawlenty for help.

The Minnesota Trucking Association asked the governor to temporarily lift restrictions that keep commercial trucks from using a section of Interstate 35E that runs through residential St. Paul with a speed limit of 45 miles per hour. The restriction prevents trucks from using the highway as a connection to Interstate 35. Opening the route to truckers would relieve congestion on other roadways, they argue. "

The Star Tribune reports that other affected highways got "a rapid makeover":

"Highway 280 has been converted, temporarily, to a full freeway. Two stoplights on the highway are now permanently green for vehicles on 280, and access to and from cross streets near those signals has been blocked."

The blocked access points from Highway 280 are causing concern among nearby businesses. Other neighborhoods are bearing additional burdens as well:

"For much of Thursday, it appeared that northeast Minneapolis may have borne the brunt of the drivers seeking alternate routes. Commutes that normally took 15 minutes lasted 45. Traffic cops tried to keep intersections clear along Central Avenue, which was packed bumper to bumper for miles north of downtown.

City Council Member Diane Hofstede, whose ward includes Central Avenue and the north end of the collapse site, said the city is considering turning off a few of the traffic signals to improve the flow on Central and on University Avenue, which curves around to become a major north-south route in Northeast."

The 35W bridge catastrophe has radically altered the cost benefit analysis for traffic patterns throughout the Minneapolis - St. Paul metropolitan area. It makes no sense to continue to sacrifice optimum performance of the regional highway network in order to cater to parochial neighborhood interests. Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, and US Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters should lift the artificially low speed limit and other restrictions on Interstate 35E.