MINNEAPOLIS -- Traffic tie-ups can be downright traumatizing, and we've been warned of a looming "Traffic-geddon" in the Twin Cities. But it's important to stop and remember what you're getting in the end -- better, safer roads.
Minnesotans know all about "orange barrel fever" -- the annual dose of delays and detours. And an array of traffic headaches are converging this weekend that will try the patience of many of driver -- light rail stations closed downtown, along with parts of Hennepin Avenue, and some ramps to I-94, and lane restrictions in the Lowry Tunnel.
That's on top of the long term closure of a stretch of US 169 to replace the Nine Mile Creek bridge in the Hopkins and Edina area. So we understand that it seems motorists are running out of options to get from Point A to Point B.
But it's important to stop and remember what we're getting in the end -- better, safer roads. Take, for example, the section of Highway 100 in St. Louis Park that underwent a total remake from 2014 to 2016. Now people are driving on wider lanes with full shoulders, smoother pavement and crossing under modern, durable bridges.
Of course, there are ribbon cutting ceremonies to celebrate the completion of those projects. But those events don't grab many headlines, or get much play on the nightly TV newscasts.
For the most part when a new stretch of roadway is ready to go we just drive on it, and the energy we used to expend complaining about that choke point gets redirected elsewhere. It's not as though we send thank you notes to MnDOT or the contractors.
At times it seems that MnDOT and other agencies charged with the task of maintaining and improving infrastructure are victims of their own success. Minnesotans have come to expect good roads and perfect driving conditions, so anything less than that draws complaints.
When those agencies do their jobs correctly they don't make waves, with the exception of some projects with striking visuals. But when those governmental entities fall behind or make mistakes, they draw plenty of attention.
And, of course, they should be held accountable for what they do with taxpayer dollars. But it doesn't hurt to take stock in the success stories. And it's always worthwhile to consider what they're taking on each year.
MnDOT's 2017 season features 211 projects worth $1 billion, including 60 in the metro. And that's not even the busiest year on record. In 2015, for example, the MnDOT list included 290 projects worth $1.2 billion.
But the disruptions are probably more noticeable this year because some of the areas impacted by the work have very high traffic counts. The Lowry Tunnel, for example, handles 158,000 vehicles per day.
So, yes, it's going to be a tough summer. But it doesn't hurt to remember the payoff at the end of the traffic trauma tunnel.
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