Interstate 494

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MNdible
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Re: Interstate 494

Postby MNdible » February 17th, 2016, 9:22 pm

Undersized at the price that the political world in which we live is willing to charge, for damned sure.

And even if you could envision a political reality in which a toll or a significant increase in gas taxes or something along those lines was achievable, probably still undersized given the intensification of uses along the 494 corridor through Bloomington that we're starting to see.

Only if you are envisioning a true real-time pricing scenario that would apply draconian tolls to all lanes (and somehow not cause a citizen revolt), only then is it adequately sized given the current design limitations through the corridor.

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Re: Interstate 494

Postby Mikey » February 17th, 2016, 9:50 pm

Even if we have truly hit "Peak Traffic" we are in for a slooooooooow decline at best. If a major highway is seriously congested now, it will likely still be seriously congested 50 years from now - the life of the roadway. Might as well build it to handle the load that will be asked of it for it's lifespan. If a highway is congested on a Saturday afternoon, there might be a problem

Massively improve the 494 / 35W interchange and add a MnPass lane on 494 (to where, I still don't understand) - that should take care of 85% of the problem. Add a third general lane to 62 from 169/212 to 77 while you're at it because two lane urban freeways don't work right. But pay for it honestly and humanize the streets around them
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RailBaronYarr
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Re: Interstate 494

Postby RailBaronYarr » February 17th, 2016, 11:10 pm

[deeeeeep sigh] I'll absolutely challenge the notion that 494 and 62 are comically undersized for what they're being asked to handle. I will hammer this again and again and again: our region has the 5th best weighted average access to jobs by car in the country. That's access to total jobs, which says a hell of a lot considering we're the 16th largest metro. Our congestion, even on 494, is simply not something we should be concerned about. Sure, things get a bit dicey on 494 near 35W for a few more hours than a typical rush hour, and there are general slowdowns even on the weekend between 77 and 35W. But man, I used to drive from the UMN campus all the way out to Chanhassen and back every day, taking either 62 or 494, and it was a consistent 28 minutes in the morning leaving at 6:45 AM and 35 minutes on the way home - a trip that passed through some of the worst freeway bottlenecks in the region. I compare that to my wife's stories of her parents buying a hybrid Accord to take advantage of the HOV lanes to still sit in a 1+ hour commute to Springfield, VA from the Navy Yard in DC, all of 22 miles door to door during rush hours. In the HOV lanes.

I guess, what is the goal of our regional interstate system? That someone can hop on at any hour of the day, any day of the week, and never drop below 50 mph all while paying nothing more than whatever gas tax you happen to burn for the 5 miles you're on the freeway? I know, political realities and everything. But people need to understand just how good we have it here in the Twin Cities from a congestion standpoint, even on 494 and 62. If things were worse, people wouldn't be buying tract homes in Waconia and southern Shakopee expecting to get to their jobs in Plymouth and Minneapolis and Bloomington in 30 minutes or so. But they have, and are, because despite everyone's complaints in the Strib comment sections about how MnDOT has no foresight to build 5 lanes when they had the chance and lite rail be stealing all our road money, things are still pretty good for people looking to get around our metro by car.

Maybe my frustration is that the band of what is politically feasible is so narrow for cars that a pro-urban, Minneapolis resident sees tolling all lanes of an urban highway as draconian and the idea of a gas tax bump of a dime a gallon (what, $100-150/yr for a typical family of four?) actually does cause 70% of our population to go bonkers. Meantime, transit users pay more for express routes and rush hour fares on local buses because, hey, demand management by price is actually a well-understood and widely-implemented thing across the world (also, transit users don't put up the fuss that drivers do). And, if you think about what you could do for the bottom 30% of the region who would actually feel the pinch thanks to draconian $0.50 per 494 trip toll from a transit or housing or climate change mitigation perspective, all while freight and couriers and realtors and plumbers and landscapers and cabs can zip around on highways at a predictable speed, it seems like a total win.

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Re: Interstate 494

Postby Mikey » February 18th, 2016, 7:10 am

494 doesn't need any more general lanes - but taking one away for MnPass just ain't happening either. Fix the interchange and you'll fix most of the problem. That goes for almost all of out bottlenecks - it's not a lack of lanes, it's a lack of properly designed interchanges between freeways. (62 and a few other excepted)
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SteveXC500
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Re: Interstate 494

Postby SteveXC500 » February 18th, 2016, 8:03 am

Fixing 494/35 will solve that specific area. A few years ago, an auxiliary lane was added WB between 494 and highway 100. One problem is, the bottleneck is now between France/100. 494/35 sometimes has backups, but not generally (at least in my current experiences).
Then, there is a bottleneck (worse than the others) at 494/212. I would suggest that fixing one will be helpful, but will lead to issues at the other out-dated interchanges.

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Re: Interstate 494

Postby Mdcastle » February 18th, 2016, 8:23 am

That a bad situation is not as bad as some other cities isn't justification for not trying to improve it. Maybe if we fixed 494 and 62 we could be 4th best.

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Re: Interstate 494

Postby mattaudio » February 18th, 2016, 9:06 am

Mdcastle wrote:Maybe if we fixed 494 and 62 we could be 4th best.
I legitimately can't think of any other investment in our region worth spending hundreds of millions of dollars.

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Re: Interstate 494

Postby froggie » February 18th, 2016, 9:17 am

I legitimately can't think of any other investment in our region worth spending hundreds of millions of dollars.
Guess you're not interested in the Riverview line...

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VacantLuxuries
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Re: Interstate 494

Postby VacantLuxuries » February 18th, 2016, 9:40 am

Why would we want to be fourth best in traffic? All that'll do is attract more people to our roads and we'll be faced with expanding them again.

I'd rather see hundreds in millions given in tax credits to businesses that allow their employees to work from home. Or in transit. Or literally anything else.

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Re: Interstate 494

Postby SteveXC500 » February 18th, 2016, 10:54 am

Economic growth which brings additional revenue to the state?

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Re: Interstate 494

Postby matthew5080 » February 18th, 2016, 10:58 am

SteveXC500 wrote:Fixing 494/35 will solve that specific area. A few years ago, an auxiliary lane was added WB between 494 and highway 100. One problem is, the bottleneck is now between France/100. 494/35 sometimes has backups, but not generally (at least in my current experiences).
Then, there is a bottleneck (worse than the others) at 494/212. I would suggest that fixing one will be helpful, but will lead to issues at the other out-dated interchanges.
My commute to Normandale from Eden Prairie last year could range from 45 minutes to an hour and a half, as east bound traffic on 494 would start to backup around 169 (going about 20 mph if we were lucky) and was typically stop and go by Bush Lake Road. The area around 100 was the worst for my commute though. Truly awful.

SteveXC500
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Re: Interstate 494

Postby SteveXC500 » February 18th, 2016, 11:12 am

I go EB in the AM and WB in the PM, but I am early enough traffic moves. WB timing is a bit different - some traffic, but not gridlock. That said, the opposite direction of traffic needs more relief, but it would help the strip out a ton. I do worry about moving the bottleneck to another portion of 494, however.

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Re: Interstate 494

Postby mattaudio » February 18th, 2016, 11:24 am

SteveXC500 wrote:Economic growth which brings additional revenue to the state?
Urban freeway expansion generally doesn't produce economic growth. It merely moves points A and B further apart. http://trid.trb.org/view.aspx?id=1239652 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/ar ... 0X1530024X

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Re: Interstate 494

Postby David Greene » February 18th, 2016, 12:05 pm

RailBaronYarr wrote:[deeeeeep sigh] Our congestion, even on 494, is simply not something we should be concerned about.
This. 10,000 times this.

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Re: Interstate 494

Postby MNdible » February 18th, 2016, 1:48 pm

RailBaronYarr wrote:Maybe my frustration is that the band of what is politically feasible is so narrow for cars that a pro-urban, Minneapolis resident sees tolling all lanes of an urban highway as draconian...
Minor clarification -- I'm not claiming that the notion of demand-based pricing is draconian, but rather that it would require draconian pricing to meaningfully change things. I am suggesting that demand-based pricing on general lanes is politically infeasible.

There are some technological question about how it might be implemented. Does everybody need to get a transponder? And what about privacy?* But also, is the pricing based on time of day -- more expensive during rush hour -- or is it based on real time pricing -- there was an accident so now your drive into work costs $15? And will people just shift from the freeways to surface streets to avoid it, and doesn't that defeat the purpose of having freeways in the first place?

*Privacy is obsolete

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Re: Interstate 494

Postby mattaudio » February 18th, 2016, 1:53 pm

MNdible wrote:or is it based on real time pricing -- there was an accident so now your drive into work costs $15?
Yes, whatever price is necessary to ensure the minimum service threshold.
MNdible wrote:And will people just shift from the freeways to surface streets to avoid it
Possibly, but I'm not convinced that's a big deal. Assuming our streets are designed as streets rather than stroads/roads. For example, if 35W is backed up, but Park and Portland are designed in a way to keep traffic flowing at around 25 MPH in a design that is compatible with adjacent land uses, I guess I'm not that concerned about people moving to side streets. Not to mention that it already happens when incidents or congestion affect urban freeways: Want to bet there was surge in traffic on Park this morning when protesters shut down I-35W ramps to downtown?
MNdible wrote:and doesn't that defeat the purpose of having freeways in the first place?
Isn't the purpose of freeways to move people quickly between disparate places? If so, demand pricing is more aligned with the purpose of having freeways than ridiculous congestion.

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Re: Interstate 494

Postby blobs » February 18th, 2016, 2:21 pm

Yup, Lyndale gets tons of traffic whenever 35W is out. I for one would LOVE to have real time pricing everywhere, and I am willing to bet most people would be in favor of it. I read an article some time ago that showed across all levels wealth and income, people simply do not have time to sit and wait.

RailBaronYarr
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Re: Interstate 494

Postby RailBaronYarr » February 18th, 2016, 2:57 pm

There are definitely challenges to implementation. I guess it doesn't seem like those challenges are any more difficult (certainly less costly) than expanding urban highways, particularly ones like 62 with limited ROW and guaranteed legal battles, eminent domain, etc to get it done. And I know it's easy to wave my hands and click clack on the keyboard, but we require seatbelts and mirrors and a host of other things, it's not crazy to imagine a world that simply requires a transponder in every vehicle. Or not, and people can just accept the reality that they can't travel on 494 or 62 or whatever.

Maybe it's not fair to charge surge pricing to people who were already on the freeway when an accident happens. With that logic you could argue that an unexpected rain or snow storm isn't fair to surge price because people can't/won't simply leave their cars at work to go home. But these are fairly isolated incidents, and I'd bet there would be far fewer accidents if pricing made sure lanes moved at ~55 mph rather than 20 then 65 then 20 with inconsistent gaps for merging, etc. Besides, we're not exactly reinventing the wheel here. As I've pointed out in the past, there are places all over the world, even in the US, that toll every lane in each direction of an urban highway.

In any case, I don't think it would take outrageous prices to make a meaningful difference on 494. Prices for the 35W MnPass lane from the MN River to downtown rarely exceed $3. People pay roughly this much when they hop on an express bus. It wouldn't take much shifting in modes or time of use to make flows dramatically better, either. I sympathize with the political reality of taking general lanes away from people and re-purposing them as toll lanes. People don't like losing entitlements they have. What's funny is that the GOP has no problem at least proposing other social program cuts (even wildly popular ones), and the DFL has no problem proposing new taxes. Some of these things end up happening in the real world, and we can maybe debate whether they're a good idea or not wrt social welfare. The overwhelming body of research says tolling this type of infrastructure is a really good idea, so we're basically left with "people won't like it" as a rock and "how the hell do we pay for an expansion to this while MnDOT is facing a massive funding shortfall, to say nothing of funding other mobility options in the corridor." The fact that it hasn't even on the table is what surprises me.

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Re: Interstate 494

Postby mattaudio » February 18th, 2016, 3:07 pm

We're already comparing people's costs to travel downtown using one resource (time).

Image

Why not compare costs to travel downtown using another resource (money)?

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Re: Interstate 494

Postby Wedgeguy » February 19th, 2016, 12:01 pm

You have just as much challenge of getting anywhere on a street, especially if there are lot of others like you that decide to use the streets. You still have stop sign and stop lights that will slow your trip down big time. You will have other traffic merging and turning onto the street that will slow you down even more. Have had this experience several times as I tried to avoid construction, accidents, or just plain back ups. It usually took me long trying to avoid than to have just stayed the course.

So unless you trip on the street is less than a mile, then is the only time it helps you.


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