Despite Major Highway Projects, MNDOT Says Parking is Bigger Issue for Fairgoers

Photo by Minnesota State Fair.

ST. PAUL, Minn. – With the State Fair underway on Thursday, fair goers will have their struggles making their way to and from St. Paul as always.

In spite of the frustrations that many motorists might experience, the Minnesota Department of Transportation says that their construction schedule is no heavier than in prior years. There may be some additional congestion in and around the Twin Cities, but for other reasons.

“We’re not doing any more projects, we’re doing fewer projects in the metro area than in previous years,” Minnesota Department of Transportation Communications Director Kevin Gutknecht told Alpha News. “We’re working on roadways that have more significant amounts of traffic.”

Gutknecht said those projects need the renovations as they are coming to a point where the quality of the road could have large negative effects on drivers.

The DOT’s website currently lists 42 highway projects in its metro region on highways. This includes I-94, I-494, I-694, and Highway 5. I-94, which is the nearest interstate to the fairgrounds gets a traffic volume of roughly 150,000 vehicles daily according to 2015 data. DOT purposefully paused one project in order to accommodate fairgoers.

“We were doing a project on Snelling not far from the fairgrounds but we stopped that project and opened the road back up to all of its original lanes,” Gutknecht said.

That project will resume after the conclusion of the State Fair.

“From what I’m seeing now traffic is flowing pretty well,” Gutknecht said. “The issues with congestion is more with how many people are coming in.”

He believes that the fair will see more congestion issues based on parking availability. While the fairground does have some parking on site, it tends to fill up very early. This means that people will park farther away, many of whom end up walking the rest of the way. All of these pedestrians then serve to further clog traffic as drivers wait for foot traffic to clear.

“I would strongly recommend that people use the shuttle bus system that goes to and from the state fairgrounds,” Gutknecht said.

Several park and rides with free shuttles are set up around the Twin Cities to serve state fairgoers.

Last year 1,943,719 people attended the Minnesota State Fair, averaging 161,977 people each of the fair’s twelve days. This broke 2014’s record total attendance of 1,824,830.

Anders Koskinen