Compacted ice, cold snap to blame for Twin Cities' traffic woesby Curtis Gilbert, Minnesota Public Radio
ST. PAUL, Minn. — It's been nearly two days since the last snowflakes flew, and road crews are still dealing with the after effects of this weekend's storm.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation says 80 percent of the metro highway system is clear, but many local streets and arterial roads remain caked with ice, making driving conditions difficult.
On St. Paul's Ford Parkway Tuesday, Minneapolis resident Lea Woods was stuck for more than 20 minutes. She said the roads are much better on the other side of the river.
"I haven't had any trouble in Minneapolis," Woods said.
And, sure enough, the moment you drive across the Ford Parkway Bridge, the road conditions improve dramatically. Forty-Sixth Street is mostly clear. There's also a noticeable difference crossing over the Lake Street Bridge. In both cases, the roads look better in Minneapolis than they do in St. Paul.
David Hunt, who takes media calls for the St. Paul's Public Work Department, was quick to acknowledge the roads are still bad.
"Unfortunately, sometimes Mother Nature just overwhelms us, and it takes time to get over the hump with clearing the ice off our streets," he said.
Hunt said wet snow followed by a cold snap is a nasty combination. Cars pack the snow into hard sheets. Once it freezes solid, plows and salt are no match for it. He said St. Paul also prepared based on forecasts that suggested 7 inches of snow at most. The city saw nearly twice that.
But he's not convinced Minneapolis or any other city in the metro did much better.
"We're very uncomfortable with trying to compare the cities, because it's often an apples and antelopes comparison when we're talking about a storm of this kind," Hunt said.
Mike Kennedy, the Minneapolis point man snow removal, agreed.
"I would venture to guess that you could find contrasting streets both ways on both sides of the river," Kennedy said.
Kennedy said the two cities use the same equipment, the same techniques and even coordinate their snow emergency announcements. The biggest difference is that St. Paul snow emergencies last about 24 hours, compared to 48 hours in Minneapolis. Kennedy said that may leave the Minneapolis streets in somewhat better shape, but he said a bigger factor is likely timing.
"The public often has an expectation that we can be everywhere at once the snow starts falling. But some streets can be first; some streets are going to be last," Kennedy said. "Depending on where they were in the routes and when you get there could make a big difference in overall condition."
Officials in both Minneapolis and St. Paul rate local driving conditions as poor right now, but say Wednesday's warmer weather forecast will start to melt the sheets of ice.
- All Things Considered, 12/11/2012, 5:24 p.m.