Ramp meters to be turned back on with some changes

by K.C. Howard

The Minnesota Department of Transportation announced Monday that ramp meters will be turned back on Friday afternoon after more than six weeks of remaining idle.
Transportation Commissioner Elwyn Tinklenberg announced three major changes that will take place while the Transportation Department wraps up its study and prepares to give it to the state Legislature Feb. 1:
ù The ramp meters will be turned back on, but only from 6:30 to 8:30 a.m. and 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. This is a significant reduction from the previous times, which lasted from 6 to 10 a.m. and 2:30 to 7:30 p.m.
ù Red meter lights will last from two to 15 seconds per vehicle. Previously, drivers could wait anywhere from two to 18 seconds before they were allowed to enter the on-ramp, Tinklenberg said.
ù During the morning commute, 60 operating meters metrowide will remain off; during the afternoon, 63 meters will be idle. Between 16 to 20 meters will remain off both mornings and afternoons.
These changes are the first step in an ongoing process of decreasing the growing congestion, Tinklenberg said.
The six-week ramp meter study prompting these temporary changes will continue so the department can study freeway congestion with the modified meters, said Marc Cutler, vice president of Cambridge Systematics and lead consultant for the study.
Cutler would not indicate how long the follow-up study will last.
According to the Minnesota Poll in the Star Tribune, commuters in Hennepin County reported shorter morning commutes than drivers in other counties. Poll respondents did not report significant changes during the afternoon commute.
Both Tinklenberg and Cutler agreed the meters are merely a tool to ease, but not staunch, traffic congestion.
“We need to get beyond the issue of ramp meters,” said Tinklenberg, who added that policy makers should seek other solutions to this growing problem.
State Sen. Dick Day, R-Owatonna, disagreed with Tinklenberg’s decision to resume ramp meter use and advocated construction of more freeway lanes.
“We are the only major city in the United States that doesn’t have a six-lane/eight-lane road going around it,” Day said. “I’m so glad they’re shutting 16 (meters) down. I want to be on the truck next week to go out and get them.”

K.C. Howard welcomes comments at [email protected]