Jun 1, 2021 - News

Twin Cities freeway traffic nears pre-pandemic levels

Traffic on a freeway in the Twin Cities.

Traffic, especially in the afternoon, is back in the Twin Cities. Photo: Nick Halter/Axios

Heading back to work after Memorial Day? The commute might remind you of the days of 2019.

Driving the news: Traffic in the Twin Cities is back to within 10-15% of pre-pandemic levels, according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

  • Afternoon traffic volumes are higher than mornings.

Flashback: Freeway traffic levels plummeted to 52% below normal in the Twin Cities metro last spring, when the pandemic and government restrictions forced people to stay in their homes.

  • It dipped again in the winter but rebounded all spring as Minnesotans get vaccinated.

What's ahead: Expect traffic to keep increasing as the summer carries on.

  • As Axios reported two weeks ago, companies have chosen three common dates to bring remote office workers back: June 1, July 6 and Sept. 7 — the Tuesdays after holiday weekends.
  • So far about 23% of downtown Minneapolis office workers and about 20% of St. Paul workers are back, according to the Minneapolis Downtown Council and Saint Paul Downtown Alliance.

What to watch: Traffic should be heavier Tuesdays through Thursdays, the days companies using hybrid work models plan to have most of their employees on-site, according to a Minneapolis Downtown Council survey.

  • 80% of downtown Minneapolis employers expect to bring their workers back 3-5 days a week and 70% of them expect to have at least half of their employees back this fall, according to the council.

Our thought bubble: The empty roads weren't going to last forever, but at least we knocked out a year of construction backups on Interstate 35W in Minneapolis and Highway 5 near the airport.


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