Busy day downtown could lead to delays

With the Twins, Gophers and Vikings all playing at home Thursday and adding to rush hour, downtown traffic could be cumbersome for fans.

Hard-core fans aren't the only ones who dislike preseason games. Today is going to be a traffic nightmare as a regular work day turns chaotic as those who commute on busses, those who use light rail and those who drive their own vehicles will be put to the test on Black Thursday.

As one who got bamboozled by the Minnesota Department of Transportation after the Vikings first home game Aug. 9, Thursday is going to a driving mess for multiple reasons.

Typically, I don't raise my own personal problems to readers because everyone has them and nobody wants to hear about yours. But when the Vikings played the Texans Aug. 9, as I left the Metrodome a couple hours after most of those who showed up did, my plan was simple: get on I-94 heading west and get out of Dodge. The problem? MnDOT had closed down all entrances to I-94 without enough promotion of that detail. If not for a couple of media comrades, there's an outside chance I would still be snaking my way on the side streets of the north Minneapolis suburbs. Once I finally made my way to the side-winding eventual entrance to Hwy. 100 – with a non-Minnesotan who flagged down Wrongway Feldman because he was hopelessly lost in a labyrinth of four-way stop signs in what was later identified as Brooklyn Park – I felt my personal nightmare was over.

That was then. This is now. And now might end up being worse.

The roads leading into and out of Minneapolis are going to be crowded, whether on the major arterial routes or the downtown side streets. No matter where you go, you're going to find cars, busses and trains packed to the gills with people and it will be an all-day affair.

The Twins open the festivities with a 12:10 p.m. game against the Kansas City Royals. If history serves, that game won't get out until about 3:30 p.m. Given the anticipated sweltering conditions, thousands of fans will beat the heat by hydrating – many of them with beverages of an adult nature.

At 6 p.m., the Minnesota Gophers football team will open its season at TCF Bank Stadium against UNLV – a team the U of M athletic department didn't feel the need to pay off to avoid potential embarrassment. Traffic heading to that game will be looking for pregame libation and will be filtering into the campus area around 3 p.m. The majority of the hard-core Gophers fan base will be having supper about 4 p.m., but there's nothing unusual about that – as they reminisce about the Gophers teams of the '60s that wouldn't have feared playing football against a basketball school like North Carolina.

At 7 p.m., the Vikings play the Tennessee Titans. Fans will start showing up for that game about 4 p.m. and filtering in over the next couple of hours. On a Sunday when there is minimal commerce taking place in downtown Minneapolis, there are traffic headaches. Combine that crowd with the Twins crowd, the Gophers crowd and those who are heading from work to one of those three events and you have the makings of gridlock at a pretty significant order.

And let's not forget the State Fair. While technically being held in St. Paul, some fairgoers use the same roads as they do to get to Target Field, the Metrodome and The Bank.

The only good thing about Thursday is that the DOT won't close roads down without adequate warning. Most drivers won't get lost today. They may, however, spend an inordinate amount of time looking at the brake lights of the cars in front of them.

John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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