If you think traffic through the Lowry Tunnel is bad now, just wait.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation is fixing a bunch of bridges and tunnels on Interstate 94 in Minneapolis, and the only way to keep the busy freeway open while crews work is to shift traffic to one side of the road.
And that includes through the already-annoyingly-busy Lowry Tunnel.
What to expect, and when
This is all part of MnDOT's big, $46.3 million construction project on a 9-mile stretch of the interstate between Minneapolis and Brooklyn Center. The entire project is expected to be finished next year, but the Lowry Tunnel closures will only be for the next three months.
Here's a breakdown of what you can expect from now until the fall around the Lowry Tunnel:
– Friday, June 23 at 10 p.m. through Monday, June 26 at 5 a.m.: MnDOT will close the eastbound lanes of I-94 between Interstate 394 and Interstate 35W. You'll still be able to go westbound on I-94 through the tunnel. Crews will use this time to prepare the eastbound side of the freeway to handle both lanes of traffic.
– Monday, June 26 at 5 a.m. through early August: The westbound lanes of I-94 will close, and westbound traffic will be diverted to the eastbound lanes (with all the drivers who are driving east). There will be two lanes open in each direction through the Lowry Tunnel. A bunch of exit and entrance ramps from major roadways will also be closed in the area (see a list here).
– Early August to mid August: When work is done on the westbound lanes, both sides of the tunnel will reopen – but only temporarily. (Note: big trucks still won't be able to use I-94 in this area, and some ramp closures will continue.)
– Mid August to mid September: All I-94 traffic will be moved to the westbound side of the tunnel, with two lanes open in each direction. This will continue until crews are done working on the eastbound lanes. During this time, big trucks will still be prohibited and there will be more ramp closures (see a list here).
This video explains the Lowry Tunnel project:
The lanes through the Lowry Tunnel will be skinnier than normal and the speed limit will be lower, MnDOT says, reminding motorists to "be patient and drive carefully" through the construction zone.
Some advice: Plan ahead
Drivers who take roads that lead to the tunnel (I-394 and I-35W), as well as the detour routes, can expect to experience some traffic jams.
“This is a significant project and will be a challenge for drivers,” David Aeikens of MnDOT told the Star Tribune, noting drivers should give themselves extra time and plan some alternate routes.
Also know that from July 22 through the morning of July 3, the Light Rail won't be running in most of downtown Minneapolis. More information on that here.
For more information on detours and road closures throughout the I-94 project, click here. You can also sign up for email updates regarding the project.