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Improvements planned for Lafayette Bridge in St. Paul

The Layfette bridge causes headaches for drivers
The Layfette bridge causes headaches for drivers 01:51

ST. PAUL, Minn. — A dangerous, traffic-jammed bridge is in for a big change. 

The Highway 52 Lafayette Bridge in St. Paul stretches across the Mississippi River just east of downtown. Drivers heading north on the bridge funnel into an interchange with four route options, but there are only three lanes.

"That middle lane there is stopped all the way up," said Dudley Ray of St. Paul.

The middle lane is the lane for drivers needing to go to both northbound Interstate 35E and westbound Interstate 94.

The line to the entrance ramps gets so bad, it becomes very difficult to cross over to the other side.

"It's impossible," Ray said. "You can't do it. If you're in the right lane you better be going east. If you're in the left lane, you better be going west."

Ray says he tries to avoid the bridge altogether.

Highway 52 Lafayette Bridge in St. Paul   WCCO

Chris Bower, an engineer with the Minnesota Department of Transportation, says the traffic issues on the bridge are front of mind for the department.

MnDOT has tried smaller fixes like signs and pavement markers, but those haven't worked.

"There's issues with people merging late, people getting rear-ended and a lot of crashes just associated with the imbalance of traffic demand on the different lanes across the bridge," Bower said.

A state study found that crashes on the bridge have tripled since it was re-designed in 2015.

"Last week they had a three-car accident," said Michael Mitchell, a West St. Paul resident who drives the bridge every day. "A whole car flipped over the middle of the lane."

MnDOT says it's still hammering out specifics, but it plans to eventually add a lane so drivers will have two lanes for the two highway entrances.

"By creating an additional ramp to split that traffic in half, we think we can reduce the congestion, reduce the delays in the middle and really solve the crash issues we've been seeing at the interchange," Bower said.

Bower says the improvements won't require re-doing the entire bridge.

"We're really looking forward to coming up with some long-term solutions," he said.

If you'd like to share feedback or thoughts on the project with MnDOT, click here.

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