Minnesota traffic picking up as Minnesota economy slowly reopens

Brett Hoffland
Updated: May 12, 2020 06:06 PM
Created: May 12, 2020 04:39 PM

Minnesota's 'stay at home' order has been in effect for almost two months now and, in that time, many drivers have noticed the amount of vehicles on the roads has dropped significantly.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation has tracked traffic trends and said Minnesotans are likely to see more and more traffic as the weeks go on and more businesses reopen.


"The day we reopened was almost like Christmas, it's like, 'Oh my gosh, we're back together,'" said Keith Miller, owner of Bubbly Paws.

Miller said they'd been closed for weeks due to COVID-19 but they were able to partially reopen last week.

"The last two months, it's been awful," Miller said. "Seeing money flowing into our bank account rather than going out all the time, it's a huge relief."

As more businesses start to open, traffic is picking up but MnDOT said we're still well below what's normal.

"If you watch traffic cameras, it was striking," said Mike Dougherty, MnDOT spokesperson.

Minnesota traffic patterns have been way down during the pandemic. In fact, on April 12 in the middle of the 'stay at home order,' Metro freeway traffic dipped 71% compared to normal.

"It did look like an early Sunday morning or something," Dougherty said.

Dougherty said the data shows traffic volume is still down 20% to 30% in recent days. However, during this lull on the roads, crews have been able to start some construction projects early.

"As people eventually get back to work, that work is further along the line and maybe we'll get done sooner," Dougherty said.

MnDOT said this pandemic could have an impact on the future of transportation in Minnesota. More people could decide to work from home full-time, and they'll be studying traffic patterns to learn the full effect.

"Now, I think groups and work groups are starting to see that, 'Well, maybe we do need people in at work but maybe they come in two days a week, or three days a week and they work from home,' and that will have some changes on our transportation system," Dougherty said.

For comparison, a study by the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation shows Minnesota is one of only five states with at least a 20% increase in mobility patterns over the last few weeks.

"I think we'll continue to see traffic tick up, bit by bit," Dougherty said.

As more folks open their doors, it may take longer to get where you're going. But many are welcoming a longer commute.

"I will sit in rush hour traffic if we can fully open," Miller said.

For more information on the traffic data and MnDOT construction projects underway, click here and here.

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