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Crosstown drivers get an extra lane, but it’s only temporary

The Minnesota Department of Transportation has added an extra lane on a short stretch of Crosstown Hwy. 62 in Edina late last week to help ease congestion.

But drivers don’t have to get used to it: the lane between Valley View Road and Hwy. 100 is temporary, MnDOT spokesman Jesse Johnson said.

The MnDOT restricted the shoulder to accommodate additional traffic expected to use crosstown westbound when lanes on nearby Interstate 494 are closed as part of an ongoing $377 million project. Motorists will face overnight lane closures in both directions of I-494 between East Bush Lake Road and the I-35W/494 interchange through June 23.

Over the next four years, drivers will face additional lane closures, including occasional weekend closures of all lanes in both directions, as well as ramp and loop closures as the MnDOT rebuilds Highway. Local roads near I-494 in Bloomington, Richfield and Edina will also be closed at times.

The project, which is expected to run through 2026, includes adding EZ Pass lanes between the freeway. 100 and I-35W, a ramp at the I-494/35W interchange, bridges at Portland, Nicollet and 12th Avenues and a pedestrian bridge at Chicago Avenue.

MnDOT officials anticipate many I-494 drivers will shift to Crosstown to avoid travel disruptions, creating the need for a westbound third lane, Johnson said.

MnDOT has done this in the past. The agency converted the shoulder to an additional travel lane from 2017 to 2021 when it rebuilt I-35W between downtown Minneapolis and Crosstown. When this project was completed, the extra lane on the Crosstown disappeared. When MnDOT is finished with I-494, the lane will disappear again.

Why can’t it stay? For one, the asphalt laid on the shoulder isn’t as thick as pavement in regular traffic lanes and couldn’t support the weight of long-term traffic, Johnson said.

But bureaucracy is the main reason. To make the route permanent, MnDOT would need to conduct an environmental review, which would include assessing how the new layout would affect people and things such as wildlife and vegetation near the route.

“If a new lane increases noise, it might require a sound barrier to reduce sound,” Johnson said. “Adding a lane permanently is a different process, and we don’t currently have any funded projects to do that.”

Art appears in bus shelters

Metro Transit seeks to inject joy into commutes by replacing bus shelter ads with art.

“After having a tough few years with the pandemic, you will have some surprise and joy on the ride seeing something you wouldn’t normally see while waiting for the bus,” said Ellen Thomson, a web designer for Metro Transit. who came up with the idea. “These encounters can have an upward spiral of positive emotions.”

Local artists created the installations using familiar materials such as paper, string, toys and tiny resin bears. They will be on display at 15 shelters this month and next.

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