The Drive
See more of the story

In a photo taken from a MnDOT traffic camera, a semitrailer truck blocked traffic in the Lowry Hill Tunnel after being involved in a crash Thursday night.

Drivers of semitrailer trucks, over-the-road buses, delivery trucks and vehicles weighing more than 9,000 pounds have apparently missed the memo about staying out of the Lowry Hill Tunnel.

Big vehicles have been banned from driving through the tunnel since Sunday, when the Minnesota Department of Transportation reconfigured the lanes inside the tube by putting all traffic on one side and slimming traffic lanes to 10 feet wide. Yet, a few trucks an hour have passed through, said David Aeikens, a MnDOT spokesman.

On Thursday night, MnDOT cameras even showed a semi involved in a crash that had traffic diverting from Interstate 94.

On Tuesday, a truck struck overhead lighting and damaged electrical equipment, leading to a 90-minute shutdown of the right lane, Aeikens said.

“It’s a combination of truckers not knowing or not caring,” Aeikens said. “There is limited clearance, risk to the safety of other vehicles. They need to stay out of there.”

There was also danger to crews dispatched to fix the damage. “Additional trucks went through, striking nearby cones and almost hitting crews,” Aeikens said.

The State Patrol cited those drivers with a $300 ticket, Aeikens said.

“It’s been a big problem,” said Lt. Tiffani Nielson of the State Patrol.

Photo: MnDOT

Additionally troopers have handed out 67 tickets to drivers for speeding. The speed limit inside the tunnel is 40 miles per hour.

MnDOT sent letters and postcards to trucking associations to alert drivers of the ban and to convey that large vehicles should follow the posted detours directing them to use Interstate 35W, Crosstown Hwy. 62, Hwy. 100 and I-694.

In recent days, MnDOT officials have fanned out to rest areas to hand out additional postcards to truck drivers and mailed cards to businesses with delivery fleets to remind them not to drive through the tunnel. It’s also reviewing its signage along freeways to see if there is more that can be communicated to keep trucks and large vehicles out.

Extra state troopers also are being sent to the area to enforce the ban, Aeikens said.

Tim Harlow • 612-673-7768