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Twin Cities traffic inching toward pre-pandemic levels

MnDOT says traffic is within 10% of normal after dipping by half last spring.

GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. — You can check in with the Minnesota Department of Transportation to gauge metro traffic levels. 

Or, just ask Stan Judge.

“Fill up every day,” Judge says as he pumps gas at a Golden Valley Holiday station.

Judge puts about 200 miles a day on metro roads delivering dental products.

He’s witnessed a traffic evolution.

“During the start of COVID, it was really nice. No traffic. I could get where I wanted to go easy. Now, it's getting really tight."

Stan's observations are spot on.

“Yeah, we are kind of seeing the same thing,” Brian Kary, MnDOT’s director of traffic operations, says. “Traffic volumes seem to be kind of rebounding now.”

Twin Cities traffic that was down by half during March of last year is now back to within 10% of pre-pandemic levels, according to Kary.

“We have been kind of seeing this upward trend since probably about January or so,” Kary says. “Could be some people kind of going out more, some people returning back to work.”

So far, afternoon drive has been more congested than morning.

But things are evolving.

“Even looking at last week compared to this week, it seems like there's a little bit of a jump,” Kary says.

Predicting what comes next isn't easy. The biggest unknown: telework and the number of people who will continue to work from home even after COVID restrictions are lifted.

“That's a big question mark for us right now,” Kary says, “because that could really play into the amount of congestion that we kind of return to. And even if a small sample of people continue to telework, at least part time, that can have some big impacts on our system and help relieve a lot of that congestion.

Less congestion would be fine with Judge.

“Absolutely,” he says. “I like it better when it was lighter for sure.”

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