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Twin Cities Commuters Brace For Major Weekend Traffic On I-394

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- A perfect storm of hellish traffic conditions will be sure to slow down commuters Friday evening.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation is closing all westbound lanes on I-394 for scheduled roadwork right around the time a Twins game should be letting out, and right around the beginning of the popular Basilica Block Party Music Festival downtown.

All of this, of course, will coincide with the usual rush hour traffic.

The construction project on I-394 will begin at 10 p.m. on Friday, taking over the westbound lanes between I-94 and Highway 100. The project is expected to last about two weeks, or until the end of July according to MnDOT.

The Basilica Block Party begins at 5 p.m. in the area surrounding the Basilica of St. Mary on Hennepin Avenue, and right next to the intersection of I-94 and I-394. Friday night's headliners won't be hitting the stage until later in the evening, with Weezer set to start at 9 p.m. on one stage and O.A.R. scheduled to play at 8:45 p.m. on another. Tickets are still available for one or both nights of the festival.

Meanwhile, the Twins are set to face off against the Tigers at Target Field at 7:10 p.m.

Beyond Friday, MnDOT will spend four weeks resurfacing just over a two mile stretch of I-394.

"The road will be smoother, it'll be quieter and longer lasting than the asphalt we have," said Bobbi Dahlke of MnDot.

Road construction often slows traffic but some delays will be felt where the crews aren't working.

"It's going to be slow going in both directions," Dahlke said.

With the three westbound lanes off limits, traffic out of the city will be moved to the HOV lanes. That means, Monday morning, the 7,100 drivers traveling on I-394 east, at peak rush hour, will be squeezed into three lanes rather than the normal five.

"The rush hours typically end around 9:30ish. With this project going on, rush hours are easily going to go into 10:00-11:00," Dahlke said.

The afternoon rush will also see slowdowns. Traffic from the Lowry tunnel, downtown Minneapolis and I-94 will all be squeezed into two lanes.

"I'll try to avoid it as much as possible, maybe go earlier or later when there's less traffic," said Paul Fletcher of Minneapolis.

Weekend only closures weren't an option for a project of this size. Dahlke said the four week closures are accelerated to get the project done quickly.

"When we were planning this project, many years ago, we looked at just doing the weekends. If that were the case we'd have to close every weekend until April into the fall, every single weekend," Dahlke said.

The work is scheduled through mid-August, and one driver is choosing to focus on the end game.

"It's nice when winter comes and you have the nice roads," said Ron Strom of St. Louis Park.

After the westbound lanes are finished, the eastbound lanes will close for two weeks with traffic pushed again into the HOV lanes.

The resurfacing project will cost $11 million.

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