MINNEAPOLIS - You could drive a Ferrari down Portland Avenue. But these days you might be better off on a Schwinn.
As I-35W construction back-ups flood detour routes with traffic, cars stand still while bicycles and buses get a pass.
“It took me an hour to go a block,” the driver of a van shouts from his window. Meantime buses and bikes pass by on either side.
The favoritism shown buses and bikes is all part of the plan as Minneapolis confronts its first week with both limited downtown access to I-35W and freeway capacity reduced from 10 lanes to five.
“In a project like this we're all about moving the people,” said Allan Klugman, a traffic engineer with the City of Minneapolis. “If we can put 50 people in a bus that's a very efficient way to get the people through the corridor.”
So, both Portland Avenue and Park Avenue now have dedicated bus lanes during peak periods – and traffic control agents who whistle and wave to keep buses moving, even when that means stopping cars.
“Buses are about five percent of the vehicles coming into downtown at the peak hour and carry almost 50 percent of the people,” Klugman said.
With their own dedicated lanes, bicyclists find themselves passing cars too.
“Oh yes, lots of them,” confirms Andrew Dahl from the seat of his bike. “I'm several blocks ahead of where everybody else was.”
Frustrated, some motorists have sought their own routes, jamming up residential streets.
“Ever since they got this construction up, it's just a mess,” said John Iverson, who lives in the neighborhood.
Duke Cano, owner of Duke's Cars and Towing, thinks state transportation officials bit off more than they should be chewing.
“I just don't understand why they decided to do all these repairs at one time,” he said.
But Cano has found a bright side to the stream of stop-and-go traffic on the Portland Avenue side of his shop. The drivers of those cars will have plenty of time to study his sign.
“They can read the whole thing,” Cano laughs. “That’s the good thing about it.”