Steven (unzeugmatic) wrote,

Traffic Update

When the I-35 bridge collapsed I reported that I anticipated some major traffic issues for me. The I-35 bridge was the major conduit across the Mississippi River leading to and from downtown from the north. There are two other bridges that cross the Mississippi into downtown Minneapolis -- one just east of my office building, and one just west of my office building. If you take those bridges you are on surface roads for a while -- they're not particularly convenient to getting to any major road or highway -- but, obviously, there's a whole lot more traffic on and around those bridges now. I'm pretty much stuck; there are no secret roads to get to my office that avoid the new traffic. I pretty much have to take one of those bridges, unless I want to go perhaps twenty miles out of my way -- and believe me, some people really are making commute shifts of that magnitude.

Oh, and also there's an awful lot of traffic all day long now in the roads surrounding my office, the roads that lead to the bridges. This makes walks to the various lunch places (and Surdyk's wine and cheese) a treacherous undertaking; people are zooming way too fast on what used to be slower city roads (Hennepin and Central). There are occasional evenings when one particular road -- University heading east from my office -- is so backed up between 5:15 and 5:30 that you might as well wait fifteen minutes if you need to take it, as you'll arrive at your destination at the same time.

In general, though, I'm here to report that while the traffic is bad for my commute it is not nearly as terrible as I feared. The city has placed traffic cops at all of the intersections for several blocks in all directions around those bridges, which helps tremendously for the most part. I say "for the most part" because I'm learning that different traffic officers have different styles and philosophies. Some push all traffic through, some allow for breaks, some basically follow the traffic light patterns, and some seem wholly improvisational (and will sometimes hold traffic in a particular direction for two rounds of a traffic light, if that's what the situation requires).

[Obligatory description for a certain subset of my livejournal readers: The evening traffic officer at the corner of Third Avenue and Washington is really handsome, in a solid strong way, and he has a tattoo on his large muscular calf which you can see because he usually wears shorts. I don't mind waiting at that intersection, which is a good thing because I have to wait at that intersection every day. When it's time for me to move along it's all I can do not to slow down, but when I pass him (I pass within inches of him ) he's blowing his whistle and waving me along as I turn left.]

There's really only one very tricky part of my commute now, and it leads to a cellphone rant. The most direct route to my office involves me turning left on Central Avenue, onto a small side street. Central Avenue at that point is now a major route downtown. If the traffic is following the traffic light at the corner up ahead, there is no problem; there are regular breaks in the traffic and I can easily turn left. But sometimes the traffic officer up ahead follows the "push-em-through" philosophy which means there is traffic coming in the opposite direction that is at close to a standstill and which literally never breaks.

But, but -- this is Minnesota! Most of the time cars let me through -- or in any case one lane of cars lets me through and the other lane of cars has no choice in the matter. It delays those cars not at all, not even one second, to do this; as I say, they're pretty much stopped still for long periods of time heading into town between 8:30 and 8:45 am. However, sometimes the drivers of the cars seem determined to ignore me -- which, technically, is perfectly within their traffic rights and I only take note of it because of how many people really do let me through. And this is what I've learned: If a driver is talking on a cell phone, there is, without exception, absolutely no way the driver will let you turn.

So here's my working theory: Talking on a cell phone temporarily eliminates your peripheral vision.

Oh, and a major evening event at the Metrodome (which normally is right on my route, as I drive up Park and down Portland) can back up traffic all the way across the bridge to the area around my office, which is about a mile away. Basically that period of heavy traffic is simply more than even the most skilled traffic officers can maneuver. Also: People coming to the Metrodome looking for parking are worse than cell phone users when it comes to paying any attention to other cars, and they will turn right on a red light right in front of you just as if you are not there at all. You get pretty focused when you are looking for Dome parking, I suppose. This may always have been true, but it never came to my attention until the absurd Dome traffic we now have became the post-bridge-collapse standard.

When the streets are narrowed by snow in a few months this might be a different story.
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