35W Meltdown: Why Didn’t Dayton Steer Fans to His Bike Lanes and Trains This Weekend?

Gov. Mark Dayton hit the panic button this week.  He expressed “serious concerns” and apologized for MnDOT’s untimely closure of 35W into downtown Minneapolis this weekend on game days. 

The 35W meltdown offered Dayton the opportunity to urge Minnesotans to take to the bike lanes, walkways and light rail trains his administration has prioritized over highways.  But when the rubber hit the road this weekend, the governor let a good crisis go to waste.  Not a word about alternative modes of travel that MnDOT, the Met Council and urban planners pretend are just as important as freeways.

Gov. Mark Dayton has issued an apology to those who may feel the effect of the closures. Dayton spoke with Minnesota Department of Transportation to express his serious concerns about potential disruptions. “There’s no question it will be disruptive and I regret that,” Dayton said.

It’s a little late for that. Some 200,000 fans are expected to pour into downtown Minneapolis to see the Gophers, Twins, Vikings and Twin Cities Marathon.

The perfect storm of public events would overwhelm the road system under the best of conditions. But this weekend could set a new standard for route rage among drivers desperate to “make a move” and not miss the opening kickoff.

The decision to shut down I-35W on a such a heavy sports weekend has drivers scratching their heads and asking why the closure could not have been pushed off another week when the events calendar will be much lighter.

“If the work was scheduled for next weekend, the Twins season would have been over and the Marathon would have been run,” Tom Carlson of New Brighton wrote in an e-mail to the Star Tribune. “And there would probably be 80,000 less people downtown.” The Vikings also are on the road.

Predictably, Dayton threw MnDOT Commissioner Charlie Zelle under the bus once word got out about the ill-timed closure. But the commish said he’d covered all the bases by informing the teams and marathon about the impending disaster coming their way. Mission accomplished!

In a statement Wednesday, Zelle said his agency has worked with the Vikings, Twins, marathon organizers as well as the U “so they have time to alert their patrons about the closure.”

“The redesign of the I-35W corridor through Minneapolis is a very complex project, and the work we accomplish this weekend is necessary to keep it on schedule and any delay would add significant costs to the project,” he said.

Sure, Dayton apologized for the  35W debacle. But he should really be apologizing for wasting billions of dollars in transportation funding for frivolous and ineffective projects highlighted in American Experiment’s recent report: Twin Cities Traffic Congestion: It’s No Accident.