The Minnesota Department of Transportation’s ramp meter experiment is now over, and by Friday we should have an improved meter system in place. The department’s ramp meter evaluation could result in shorter commute times and less congestion on area freeways.
The study’s proposed changes — to be implemented Friday — include shortening the meter times during both rush hours by about two to three hours and making the lights change more quickly from red to green. Most significantly, 60 of the 273 meters used during the morning commute and 63 of the 329 meters used during the evening commute will be shut off permanently.
A situational approach will better serve motorists both in the metro area and in the surrounding outer suburbs. Though preliminary, the study revealed congestion increasing in some areas while lessening in others. Thus neither completely removing meters from the traffic scheme nor turning them all back on will substantially improve the Twin Cities’ transportation problems. Apparently understanding this, the Department of Transportation correctly decided to leave some ramp meters off when it resumes their use on Friday.
The Twin Cities highways are inadequate, and a lack of available funds has hindered the state’s ability to manage growing freeway congestion. After the installment of the first Twin Cities ramp meter in 1969, it was discovered that meters were effective in improving the flow of traffic, high speeds and reducing accidents. Instead of an expensive expansion of the highway system, meters were placed throughout the metrzo area.
Sen. Dick Day, R-Owatonna, has been a key player in the opposition to ramp meters by proposing the experimental shut off. Day believes it’s better to directly address the under built highways, license tab fees, and the car pool lane as opposed to resorting to meter use.
With or without ramp meters, congestion keeps growing each year. It’s imperative that better systems of transportation be devised before the transportation department brings its traffic proposal before the Legislature on Feb. 1, 2001.