PSA: Don't 'block the box' – it makes downtown traffic even worse

Traffic has sucked this week, but Minneapolis says some drivers are making it worse.
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As many of us are aware by now, traffic in downtown Minneapolis has been a total nightmare lately, largely due to construction and lane and ramp closures.

But after taking a fair amount of flak on social media about the gridlock, the City of Minneapolis on Thursday said problems are being exacerbated by drivers carrying out an illegal maneuver – blocking the box.

That's when someone drives into an intersection when there's not enough room to make it all the way through during a green light. When traffic signals change, the vehicle blocking the box keeps cross traffic from moving, stopping up traffic in both directions.

Here's what we're talking about:

Minneapolis is warning drivers that blocking the box is against Minnesota law, increases delays and adds to the already congested traffic.

Make sure there's enough room to completely cross a street before entering an intersection – often that means waiting for the next green light to come around. While you're waiting, make sure not to block crosswalks so pedestrians can get through safely.

And if there's a traffic control agent in the intersection, they're the boss – according to Minnesota law, instructions given by these agents must be followed by all drivers, and their direction overrides all traffic signals and signs.

The city provides them as a service to drivers and commuters, as they help ease congestion and on Wednesday announced it would be increasing its traffic control efforts in downtown areas as congestion piles up because of construction on streets like 5th and Hennepin.

But traffic agents can't be everywhere, which is why the city has issued the reminder not to block the box.

Other tips to keep delays to a minimum

MnDOT said it urges drivers to check out the status of the roads, either using 511MN.org, checking traffic cams or researching construction project pages before setting off for a trip.

Also plan ahead, considering alternate routes if there’s major congestion on your usual routes.

"If you know there will be major congestion on your route, consider an alternate. Or consider changing your departure time," MnDOT spokesman Kevin Gutnecht said. "This works for both daily commutes as well as trips out of town to that lake place ‘up north.'"

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