Friday, November 12, 2010

Top Ten Fridays: Dumbest TC Construction Projects

Here's what you need to know about traffic in the Twin Cities. Our highway system was devised in the 1960s by engineers who were under the impression that a zombie massacre would plague our state, thereby reducing our population by 80% over the following fifty years.

Alas, the engineers of yesteryear grossly overestimated the zombie threat. MNDOT is left to clean up the mess, and they actually do a pretty good job, when given the chance.

Alas, politicians are involved. Between local initiatives, suburban placates, and federal pork projects, the Twin Cities roads have been turned into a Legoland of civic irresponsibility. My greatest hits of the last 10 years are as follows.

10. 35/62/Portland

See, if you live in Richfield, construction never ends. Between 35W, 62, 494, and just about every major artery route from Minneapolis, there's always something going on. The good people on the east side of the city (aka the wrong side of the tracks) have also had to deal with hostile takeovers my the MAC and the Best Buy Corporation.

Now, their access to Highway 62 has been cut off by the monumental 35/62 de-tangling scenario. This could easily be remedied by creating two-way access to 62 from Bloomington Avenue, but the effected region is home to largely blue collar residents. Expect another unnecessary rehab of Lake and Lyndale (see below) before that happens.

9. 494 and 169

Removing stoplights along 169 should have happened in, oh, 1977. Those poor geeks going to the Renaissance Festival wait for hours on this antiquated roadway. In particular, the 494/169 interchange has become the poster child for unanticipated exurban sprawl. Finally, however, we found the budget and political will to solve the problem. So why isn't 169 a crater right now?

Blame it on an old folks home, er, residential care facility. Apparently, the largely immobile benefit greatly from frontage road access that would be eliminated under the proposed project.

It's impossible to imagine how a non-driving citizenry would be disenfranchised by road construction, but it is easy to see why an adult care facility wouldn't want to be situated right off of a major interstate. Americans are averse to the idea of dumping granny on the side of a highway, but don't want to have to drive far for the monthly visit. The frontage road is the best of both worlds. Let's keep everything as is.

8. The Camden bridge.

I94 was closed for miles because of this thing. I can't even tell what got built. There is no new way to cross 94, not that there was any urgent need at this locale. Was it for trains?

7. The Lowry Bridge closing.

After the bridge collapse, the onus was on MNDOT to close down at least one bridge. Might as well pick one offering access to a poor neighborhood with no political clout, right?

6. North Star Rail

I will give $5 to anyone who can prove this even exists. I've never seen it. According to the website, it goes to Big Lake. That's a made up name for a town if ever there was one.

Also, according to the website, phase two of the project has been put on hold. There is a phase two? The citizens of Pine Forest Rabbit Creek will be thrilled.

5. The 494 expansion

Seriously? Now? Like, building that huge retaining wall couldn't wait, say, two years? Come on.

4. 694/Snelling

Bottlenecks are the enemy of any competent civil engineer. The 694/10/Snelling morass is certainly a bottleneck. Instead of fixing it, we invested hundreds of millions of dollars to forge a clearer path to 35W North. The 38 people who commute to Duluth on a daily basis don't know what to do with the extra 45 seconds that freed up.

3. Light Rail

Let me get this straight. We spent a billion dollars connecting a mall to a stadium, utilizing an outmoded medium that is now even losing favor with the pathological greenos who championed its installation in the first place. Now, we are spending two billion dollars to extricate our sports teams from said stadium? This is why I vote Republican, people.

2. The bike bridge to nowhere.

You cannot persuade me that there was not an easier way to get bike traffic across 55 (the existing stoplight, for example). Combined with the light rail intersection, that thing is a double rainbow of waste. Finally, though, bikers have full access to two of our regions most important industrial parks.

1. Lyndale and Lake

By and large, the effort to expand Lake Street West of Lyndale was a modest success. Previously unsafe and/or unnavigable stretches in the Phillips neighborhood now easily accommodate parked automobiles and buses without gridlock.

But when one major street expansions meets another, incompetent things happen. What essentially amounted to a repaving project took more than two years to complete for some reason, destroying local businesses and bringing traffic within a one mile radius to a dead stop. And to what end? The ponderous traffic swells remain, and no new parking was created in an area that desperately needs it.


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