ST. PAUL – Minnesota House Transportation Finance Chairman Paul Torkelson (R-Hanska) said he is disappointed and puzzled by a Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) decision to close a portion of Interstate 35W on what could be one of the busiest travel weekends of the year for drivers traveling to downtown Minneapolis.
“This is the latest example of a government action that defies common sense,” Torkelson said. “Certainly someone in a MnDOT office could have spent 10 minutes of their day analyzing weekend event schedules and determining when the greatest number of travelers would be impacted by a shutdown of I-35W. MnDOT literally scheduled this on the worst weekend of the year.”
Torkelson noted that in some cases, the event schedules were released a year in advance.
On September 14, 2016 the Minnesota Twins announced they would be playing on the September 30, 2017 weekend. The Minnesota Vikings released their schedule on April 20, 2017, and the Minnesota Golden Gopher football team unveiled their schedule on May 12, 2017.
Potentially, the I-35W closure could impact up to 155,000 sports fans looking to attend these three events. Then factor in the 10,000 runners, 5,000 volunteers, and expected 300,000 spectators for the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon, and nearly half a million people could face traffic problems caused by MnDOT’s scheduling decision. And this does not take into account the number of Minnesotans who will be using the roads who are not attending a sporting event.
“With just a minimum level of planning a few months ago, this project could have been moved to a different weekend,” Torkelson said. “Instead, hundreds of thousands of visitors can now deal with an unnecessary traffic nightmare at they try to cheer on their favorite sports team or marathon runner. MnDOT can and must do better.”