The Minnesota Department of Transportation is looking for 20 commuters, transit riders, bicyclists, walkers, residents and business owners — really anybody who uses Hwy. 65 in Blaine and Ham Lake — to offer ideas on how to tackle some of the highway’s most vexing issues: safety and congestion.

“We know Hwy. 65 is bad,” said Melissa Barnes, MnDOT’s north area engineer. “Congestion is growing in Blaine, and it’s only going to get worse.”

MnDOT is seeking input as it studies ways to tackle the bottlenecks that form on the highway between County Road 10 and Bunker Lake Boulevard. The segment, which bogs down due to the numerous intersections with traffic signals, handles about 58,000 vehicles per day on the south end and about 43,000 on the north end. With commercial and residential growth expected to continue, an Anoka County report forecasts traffic to increase by 8,000 vehicles by 2040.

One possibility would be to add a third lane in each direction. Another is to convert Hwy. 65 into a freeway. Both options surfaced in a 2005 study. In either case, MnDOT would have to acquire right of way and may have to buy businesses close to intersections. Building interchanges at every cross street would be far too costly, Barnes said. MnDOT is looking for other solutions.

No money has been allocated yet for a Hwy. 65 fix, but MnDOT wants to have plans ready when it is.

Barnes is hoping the public might have cost-effective ideas to benefit residents and commuters who often say it’s too dangerous or takes too long to cross the highway.

“This will be a giant brainstorming session,” Barnes said. “What works on one end of the corridor won’t necessarily work on the other. We are seeking to find what’s viable, what the community’s goals are and how we move forward from here and put a plan in place to keep Hwy. 65 moving.”

Volunteers can join the panel and attend quarterly meetings during 2019 and 2020 by e-mailing tess.nejedlo@hdrinc.com by Friday.

No free bus rides to the polls

A Massachusetts Institute of Technology survey of 10,200 voters in the 50 states and Washington, D.C., found that access to transportation was one reason that 31 percent of registered voters did not go to the polls in 2016. In Minnesota, that figure was 19 percent.

Metro Transit doesn’t provide free rides on Election Day. But the agency is encouraging people to vote Tuesday with messages on and inside its buses. It’s also adding extra call center staff until 9 p.m. to take calls from those who want to take the bus to the polls but need help planning their trips.

Metro Transit has not historically offered free rides on Election Day, said agency spokesman Howie Padilla. One exception was in 2014 when the Legislature covered the cost. With an estimated daily ridership of 250,000 on buses and light-rail trains, eliminating fares would cost Metro Transit about $500,000.

“This makes me sad,” said Jillian Hiscock in a tweet. “You can ride free to Timberwolves games and Crashed Ice, but not to vote.”

For events like those, sometimes sponsors cover the cost or Metro Transit receives free advertising.

Free rides may only do so much. The MIT poll found 61 percent of non-voters didn’t vote because they didn’t like the candidates running.

 

Follow news about traffic and commuting at The Drive on startribune.com. Got traffic or transportation questions, or story ideas? E-mail drive@startribune.com, tweet @stribdrive or call Tim Harlow at 612-673-7768.

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