Motorists on Hwy. 100 may have noticed new, bright yellow signs telling them the far right lane is reserved for drivers planning to get off the highway.
Big signs went up in the past couple of weeks on northbound Hwy. 100 at Humboldt Avenue in Brooklyn Center and southbound at France Avenue in Robbinsdale and Hwy. 55 in Golden Valley, augmenting paint markings already in place.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation puts auxiliary lanes between interchanges that are close together to give drivers more time to merge onto the highway or exit. The lanes are often — but not always — marked with the words "Exit Only," to inform drivers they are not an official travel lane.
The Drive wondered if motorists have been using the extra lanes illegally, prompting the new signage.
"Yes, there has been a history of late lane changes in these types of lanes," said Eric Peterson, MnDOT metro sign engineer. "They also generate frequent complaints and questions about why some lanes are not signed this way."
Peterson said MnDOT has been making an effort in the past few years to use this type of signage more consistently to better communicate with motorists about the purpose of the short, special lanes.
"The 'Exit Only' signage seems to be easily recognized and more clearly understood than the alternative, which include a series of small dotted lines — rather than full-length lane stripes — painted on the pavement to tell drivers that a lane is ending," Peterson said.
The signs have been given good feedback, Peterson said, and MnDOT plans to update signs across the highway and freeway system whenever possible.
As for drivers who use the lanes to make sudden and dangerous maneuvers to jump back into traffic, "the signs cannot eliminate late lane changes, but they can help reduce it, especially for unfamiliar motorists using a route."
Cable barriers going up on Hwy. 169
A 5-mile section of Hwy. 169 in the north metro will soon get cable median barriers.
Starting Monday, MnDOT crews will install the barriers in the center median between County Road 81/Bottineau Boulevard in Brooklyn Park and West River Road in Champlin.
Drivers will encounter temporary left lane and shoulder closures in each direction between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. Monday through Saturday through mid-July, said MnDOT spokesman Kent Barnard.
New guardrails also will be installed.
MnDOT first installed the barrier featuring steel cables strung on posts in 2004 to cut down on serious injuries and deaths caused by cross-median crashes. When struck, the posts break and the cables flex to absorb kinetic energy and prevent a vehicle from continuing into oncoming traffic.
The barriers have been shown to be 95% effective in reducing fatal and life-changing crashes. MnDOT estimates they have saved 80 lives.
Installing cable median barriers costs from $125,000 to $150,000 per mile compared with concrete barriers, which cost from $400,000 to $500,000 per mile, MnDOT said.