Here’s my weekly column from the paper. Comment away below.
Roadguy enjoys Twins season, and not just because he likes a good baseball game. The driving habits of the fans also create edge-of-your-seat excitement.
Most of the dramatic tension takes place on the one-way streets near the Metrodome, where unfamiliarity breeds confusion — especially for drivers emerging from a parking area they’ve never used before.
I’ve seen cars leave a parking lot and zoom, lemming-like, into a bus-only lane. But more intriguing is watching departures from the Armory, a hangar-like building that’s used for parking.
As a driver peers out onto 5th Street — which has no on-street parking and a two-way light-rail line down the middle — there’s no clear evidence that it’s a one-way street. The sign across from the exit says merely “do not cross tracks.”
The closest thing to a clue is a few car lengths away and barely discernible: the remnants of a white arrow once painted on the street. The mythical Giant Eraser that attacks so many of our signs and markings has apparently paid a visit:
The overwhelming majority of drivers, perhaps recalling that 5th was a one-way when they arrived, do turn left, the correct way. But when someone does make that right turn, it’s a harrowing sight. The vehicle heads not only into oncoming traffic, but also toward a busy intersection where the errant driver can’t see any stoplights because they face the opposite way:
The city generally leaves it to parking-lot owners to let patrons know that they’ll be entering a one-way street in the middle of a block, said Matt Laible, a city of Minneapolis spokesman. Indeed, Roadguy has seen numerous ramps that have warning signs — and now the Armory is planning to join them.
Paul Schnettler owns Premier Parking, which has operated the Armory for several years. Until Roadguy called, Schnettler hadn’t heard of anyone turning the wrong way onto 5th, but he said it would be easy enough to install a one-way or left-turn-only sign.
That’s good news for Twins crowds, who return to the Dome on Tuesday after an 11-day absence. Now if we could just keep cars out of the bus lanes.
A BIT LESS PAIN ON I-35
Roadguy sometimes hears from Duluth-bound drivers who want to know why Interstate 35E gets two lanes but 35W gets only one when the freeways merge near Forest Lake. Lo and behold, a federal stimulus project could make things easier for northbound traffic.
When the area is repaved later this year, 35W drivers will keep their two lanes until about a half-mile after the convergence point, said Todd Kramascz, metro spokesman for the Minnesota Department of Transportation. There wasn’t enough money to extend the lane farther north, he said, but the agency is optimistic that the change will provide some relief.