Minnesota Department of Transportation

511 Travel Info

News Release

August 2, 2016

Orange barrels on a highway

Congestion report shows increasing traffic congestion in Twin Cities metropolitan area

ROSEVILLE, Minn – Traffic on Twin Cities metropolitan area freeways continues to increase, with the percentage of miles of freeway system congested increasing from 21.1 percent in 2014 to 23.4 percent in 2015, according to a Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) Metropolitan Freeway System Congestion Report.

Congestion is defined as traffic flowing at speeds less than 45 miles per hour. Many factors can affect congestion levels such as the local economy, population growth, gas prices, transit ridership and vehicle miles traveled.

“Congestion in Metropolitan areas is often inescapable,” said Brian Kary, MnDOT Freeway Operations Engineer. “We try to strike a reasonable balance between existing road capacity and the demand for roads by managing traffic particularly at peak-travel times.” 

MnDOT Congestion Management Strategies:

Active Traffic Management – MnDOT currently uses an advanced system of cameras, loop detectors, ramp meters, FIRST incident response trucks, changeable message signs and other traveler information systems. Benefits include increases in average throughput, capacity and reliability, and decreases in incidents and travel time.

Spot Mobility Improvements – These lower cost/higher benefit projects improve traffic flow by relieving bottlenecks on freeways and arterials, improving geometric design and addressing safety hazards. Some enhance capacity by adding short auxiliary lanes, and others focus on system management.

MnPASS – MnDOT currently operates MnPASS Express Lanes on I-394, I-35W and I-35E. During peak-travel times MnPASS lanes provide a congestion-free travel option for those who ride bus transit, motorcycles, vehicles with two or more passengers or motorists driving alone who are willing to pay a fee. The lanes help move more people through a highway corridor and offer commuters a faster, more reliable travel choice during peak-travel times. They can also improve bus transit service and increase ridership. MnDOT and the Metropolitan Council plan to add MnPASS lanes on other freeways throughout the Twin Cities metro area.

MnDOT gathers congestion data through surveillance detectors in the roads and through field observations. For the 2015 congestion report, the Regional Transportation Management Center collected data from 3,500 detectors embedded in the mainline roadway (there are 5,500 surveillance detectors, which includes ramps) on Twin Cities’ freeways.

The annual congestion report takes a snapshot of metro freeways each October, a month that has the most typical traffic patterns. 

To view the complete 2015 Metropolitan Freeway System Congestion Report, visit www.dot.state.mn.us/rtmc/reports/congestionreport2015.pdf

For updated road condition information, call 511 or visit www.511mn.org.