The local office of the state transportation agency insisted Tuesday that delays should now be ironed out on southbound Interstate 35.
Travelers and commuters experienced long delays Monday afternoon as a new interstate alignment was reduced to a single southbound lane. The Minnesota Department of Transportation had billed the changeover as two lanes of traffic, using Lower Michigan Street as a two-lane southbound I-35 bypass.
"Yesterday's backup was a result of some items of work that needed to be completed last-minute to fully execute the change in the traffic control plan at the tie-in points," Pete Marthaler, MnDOT's major projects manager in charge of reconstruction, said Tuesday.
He noted the single-lane closure was necessary Monday for pavement markings, barrier placement and overhead sign replacement, "all of which required a lane closure to deploy," he added.
The $343 million Twin Ports Interchange reconstruction project of I-35 through Lincoln Park runs year-round through spring 2024.
Commuters on Monday were met with long lines on the southbound freeway, trailing as far back from Lincoln Park as London Road, and creating bottlenecks on ramps and side streets aiming to reach the interstate.
"I was on-site last night when the cones for the southbound lane closure were removed (around 7:30 p.m.), and the remaining backup on southbound I-35 cleared within minutes," Marthaler said. "As a result, I fully expect it will be much improved today, as no work remains to be performed on the bypass (at Lower Michigan)."
MnDOT officials noted the Tuesday morning traffic as flowing more smoothly.
As far as the northbound traffic shift coming in mid-October, there will not be conflicting work necessitating use of a single lane like there was Monday. Meaning, when two lanes of northbound traffic move into the southbound lanes of I-35 alongside the new bypass, it'll avoid Monday's headaches.
The News Tribune asked Marthaler about the effectiveness of residents finding their own workarounds, including using Railroad Street to reach Garfield Avenue and then the Blatnik Bridge. The Blatnik is no longer accessible from southbound I-35, and the official detour is to use the Bong Bridge farther south on the interstate.
"With respect to drivers finding local alternative routes, that happens with any project," Marthaler said. "People have individual tolerances for delays, and they make decisions that best fit their desired outcomes."