Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Why I hate traveling around the Twin Cities on a summer weekend August 12, 2013

“OH, THE PLACES you’ll go…you can steer yourself any direction you choose…”

Apparently Dr. Seuss has never driven through the Twin Cities metro on a weekend, especially this last one.

You could not go any direction you chose due to road construction. Everywhere.

On Saturday morning, heading north from Faribault on Interstate 35 and then eventually northwest on Interstates 494 and 94, my husband, son and I encountered gridlock, as in stopped traffic or traffic moving at a 20 mph maximum for mile beyond endless mile. I have never seen the traffic situation this bad in 30 years of occasionally traveling these three interstates.

It all started near Lakeville, where we crept along to the I-35 Burnsville split.

But pity the poor motorists backed up even further as the sound bound lanes of 35 were shut down completely for the entire weekend. After viewing the miles and miles of stopped traffic there, we opted for an alternative route home on Sunday (more on that in a minute).

Back to Saturday morning. Before the river bridge in Burnsville, north bound traffic finally opened up. Yeah. Little did we know…the worst was yet to come.

Not long after exiting 35 onto 494 west bound, which for once was not a harrowing experience of trying to shoehorn our van into traffic, we encountered more delays. Again, road construction is to blame along with the usual heavy weekend traffic. All told, travel time from Faribault to Monticello totaled nearly two hours. Usual drive time is maybe an hour and 20 minutes.

The only two positives in all of this: At least everyone was creeping along, meaning no crazy motorists driving like maniacs and/or weaving in and out of traffic. And roads are being improved.

Four hours later, following a brief stop at a rest stop, we reached our destination, a family reunion in Morris.

The reunion was great (photos of that forthcoming tomorrow). But the thought of returning home through the metro on Sunday afternoon, not so much. We knew the traffic then would be even worse with motorists heading back into the Cities from a weekend up north.

My husband’s oldest sister, after sharing a story of how she and her husband once sat for 40 minutes on a metro interstate on a Sunday afternoon without moving, proved the deciding factor in taking the long back way home. At least we would be moving.

So near St. Cloud, we exited 94 on Sunday and followed Minnesota Highway 15 all the way to Winthrop. Seems other motorists had the same idea. Yeah. But at least we were moving.

Road construction on Minnesota Highway 21 in Faribault.

Road construction on Minnesota Highway 21 in Faribault. Nothing compared to metro road construction and the major traffic snarl-ups there. Sorry, but I failed to photograph the interstate gridlock.

Five hours later, following a lunch break and a stop to purchase fresh veggies at a roadside stand, we drove into Faribault and, ta da, more road construction. In the nearly 30 years I’ve lived here, I’ve never seen this much road work on major roadways (Minnesota Highways 60 and 21) in my community. Not quite metro area gridlock, but…

DO YOU HAVE ANY stories to share about traffic in the Twin Cities metro this past weekend?

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


35 Responses to “Why I hate traveling around the Twin Cities on a summer weekend”

  1. Beth Ann Says:

    It is a bit ridiculous right now. Chris left at 4:30 this morning to get to the airport in plenty of time for his flight—last week he did not count on the traffic delays that early in the morning so this week he was prepared. Ugh. I would much rather be moving also–even if it takes longer.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      I feel for you and Chris as you need to fight this traffic situation way more than we do. And I expect he’s also encountering traffic delays south of Owatonna and soon also b/n Owatonna and Faribault.

  2. treadlemusic Says:

    Even w/o construction, the Metro is insane on the weekends. During the week, commuters have their routes and it really flows pretty smoothly (even with construction ‘cuz they know about it) but weekenders are on unfamiliar/holiday routes and each member of a family has their own car and is ‘out there’, which multiplies the numbers pretty quickly! Driving from Maplewood to Hopkins a week ago was a bit harrowing but swift…….it was a week day! We will avoid the Cities if we can but I694/494 is hard to avoid and sheer numbers + construction is why we are said to have 2 seasons: winter & road construction! Happy Foggy Monday!!!!!!!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      You totally nailed the reasons for the bad weekend traffic situation, Doreen. Randy and I were discussing the exact same topic yesterday and concluded that the Baby Boomers, who own cabins up north, now have grown children with grandchildren. So all those extra family members are on the interstate on weekends in their individual vehicles.

      Unless we travel to see family in the St. Cloud area, we typically do not travel around the west metro. I won’t miss those trips to Fargo either to take the son to/from college as he is transferring to Tufts University in Boston. Now we will need to get to the Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport, which I know will be a challenge also. More fun times ahead.

      • treadlemusic Says:

        Yes, for you, a son in Boston (love that town!!!) and a wedding!!!!! Good thing you guys take your vitamins and are ‘young’!!!! LOL! Hugs……..

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        Ah, ha, but you are wrong. We don’t take vitamins and we don’t feel all that young anymore.

      • treadlemusic Says:

        Great to hear about the vitamins (wa-a-a-ay too much ‘hype’!!!) and you’ll have to work on those “feelings”….engage your intellect and tell yourself “I know I can, I know I can……..” oops, or is that “The Little Engine that Could?” LOL! C’mon…..how ’bout this……”This, too, shall pass!!!”?????

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Yes, the traffic situation was as bad as I’ve ever seen it.

      • MN DOT needs a better planner of construction projects – pretty bad when it takes all day to get somewhere!

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        The road constructions and resulting congestion in the Twin Cities metro got major news coverage this weekend given how bad it was. I don’t know if there’s any “good time” to do this. But a lot of major interstates and highways do seem to be under construction at the same time this year.

        It’s just frustrating and time-consuming.

        Even without road construction, traffic around the metro is horrible, in my opinion.

      • I chuckle here when someone states “It took me 20 minutes to get there!”. No clue what “real traffic” is – ha!

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        I suppose that is true. But when you’re not used to gridlock…

  3. Caryl Says:

    Made a quick trip up and back to MOA with my daughter for some shopping yesterday. 8 hours of driving for 6 hours of shopping, not sure which was worse. We came across on 19 to 169. Then took the back way to MOA. 13 across to 77. Some backed up traffic at I35 exchange on 13, otherwise not too bad. Went through your hometown of Vesta.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      I’m laughing. Six hours of shopping at the Mall of America. I could never do that as I don’t like to shop. And listen to this. Even though I live only about an hour from the MOA, I have never been there. I hope you had a successful shopping trip.

      Did you actually drive into Vesta, or just past it?

      Sounds like you planned your route well, avoiding the I35 mess for the most part.

  4. Jackie Says:

    You just never know what you’ll run into when traveling through the metro, It can be quite painstaking that’s for sure. It’s always worse when you have to be somewhere. Rochester has some repairs going on too, a major bridge by the mall closed so this is causing some detours and small delays, when it’s all done we should have better roads 🙂

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      The key is going online in advance of metro area travel so you are aware, although we still don’t fully understand why traffic was backed up so bad on I-494.

      I listen to a Rochester radio station, so I have heard about some of the projects in your town. The son hasn’t mentioned anything, meaning he must not be impacted.

      • Jackie Says:

        Yes , the North side of town is pretty clean, it’s only when you travel south 🙂 Will Caleb be packing up soon?

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        Yes, this weekend is move out time, although he works through mid-week next week and will stay in his apartment until then. I cannot believe we have not even been to Rochester to visit and also to meet you. It’s been a crazy busy summer.

  5. As you saw, the road construction here in Wgtn is evident and a little annoying, and we were almost late for a wedding this weekend up in Marshall, MN, due to road construction and a rather massive detour. Obviously in the summertime one ought to check on these things beforehand!!!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Almost late for a wedding. That’s what concerns me re. our daughter’s forthcoming wedding, that guests will not check in advance and be delayed by road construction and the resulting traffic tie-ups. Wedding site info informs guests of road construction and suggests they check in advance. Not much more one can do.

      • Oy, yes – it hits close to home for you for sure! You’ve done what you can, yes, and here’s hoping things will improve by the wedding!

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        Thank you. I especially hope road construction in downtown Faribault, site of the reception, is done by the big day.

  6. Dawn mosser Says:

    We saw that traffic jam as we left Burnsville going south to fairbault. So on our way home from the lake we went highway 13 home, nicer drive anyways. So sorry you had to sit in that amazing traffic jam.

  7. Neil Says:

    Given your love of the MN prairie, I wonder why you didn’t route your travel through that region of the state? Yes, the trip might have been longer, but ever so much more pleasant! The towns that you could have rolled through, and the blogging material you could have created…

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Time and having a teen with us would have been the deciding factors. If we had meandered the back roads and stopped for every photo opp I saw, we would never have gotten to the reunion. And the son would have been bored to death. On the way back, we did take the long route through small towns and farmland to avoid the traffic. But, again teen with us and no time as he had another hour of drive from our house (plus a pile of laundry at our house to do before he left). As it was, he left after dark and encountered some pretty thick fog driving to Rochester.

  8. hotlyspiced Says:

    They’ve built freeways (tollways) here in Sydney but always taken short-cuts and didn’t make them with enough lanes for the amount of traffic. So then they quickly become inadequate and then they start up with the construction and trying to widen them so traffic grinds to a halt and they still have the hide to charge you $6.00 for each trip. Shocking. I feel your pain! xx

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Same problem here–not built with enough lanes to accommodate the ever-growing volume of traffic. And the construction is just a continuous vicious cycle. Minnesota winters, with the salt applied to roadways, is tough on roads, too. At least we are not charged a toll.

  9. Lisa C. Says:

    Audrey, I’m so glad to read that you’ve never seen so much roadwork in your area. Having just moved here in July, we have been wondering if this is the norm. My husband’s coworker said that Minnesota has two seasons – winter and construction, ha! While we know that isn’t really true, I’m glad to think that it might not be so bad next summer….? 😀

    • Lisa C. Says:

      And we live just to the west of Lakeville, just a few miles from I35. Yikes!

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        And how bad is the road construction on I-35 in the Lakeville area right now? It’s been two weeks since we’ve had to drive 35 but we’ll be heading to the airport in a few to pick up the son flying in from Boston for his sister’s wedding. Of course, things can change rapidly and we usually check the Minnesota Department of Transportation website before heading out.

      • Lisa C. Says:

        I like Cedar, it’s a nice wide street. 🙂 I’ve been trying to avoid I-35 myself. Heading south just north of the Farmington/Lakeville off ramp is down to one lane, and I heard the north route may also be down to one lane (possible this weekend?). I’m still getting familiar with the area so I don’t always have all the correct exit names and road identifications 🙂 but I’m trying!

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        It sounds like you’re quickly learning the alternative routes to avoid road constructions. No trips on 35 north for us this weekend. Yeah.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Your husband’s co-worker is sort of right. Minnesotans do joke about winter and road construction being our two seasons. When you think about it, construction work really needs to be crammed in to a short time period. This year it’s seemed especially bad, at least along the section of Interstate 35 that we travel most often. We dodge construction sometimes by getting off at the Lakeville exit and driving east to pick up Cedar through Apple Valley. That’s been our route to avoid the traffic gridlock near the 35 split in Burnsville when we need to travel to the airport or to St. Paul.

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