How slow is too slow on I-94?

Mike KnaakColumn, Opinion, Print Sartell - St. Stephen, Print St. Joseph, Uncategorized0 Comments

At first it sounds like a great idea.

Sen. John Jasinski from Faribault introduced a bill that would penalize slow-moving drivers in the left lane of double-lane roads.

We’ve all been frustrated by “slow” drivers in the left lane of Interstate Highway 94 between central Minnesota and the Twin Cities.

Under the best conditions, the trip to a Twins game, the airport or the Mall of America can take around 75 minutes. A delay-free drive is even more important for the 5,000 central Minnesotans who work in the Twin Cities.

More than 45,000 vehicles travel both directions between central Minnesota and the Twin Cities on a typical day. And all it takes is one of those vehicles to totally clog up the freeway.

Jasinski’s bill demands “a person operating a vehicle at less than the speed of traffic under the existing conditions must drive in the right-hand lane.”

If not, they’d be fined $100.

So how will the State Patrol define “the speed of traffic under normal conditions?”

I conducted an experiment with my spouse at the wheel this past weekend to record normal traffic conditions. She usually pushes the speed limit and she’s way more impatient with pokey drivers than I am. So she was a good test subject to simulate a typical driver. While she drove on a sunny Saturday afternoon, I took notes on a trip to Minneapolis.

Heading south, we quickly exceeded the 70-mph speed limit while passing slower traffic in the right lane.

In the left lane, the “traffic speed under existing conditions” appeared to be 77 mph. So does that mean the State Patrol won’t enforce the speed limit if you’re keeping up with the rest of the vehicles?

Or if you do obey the speed limit and stick to 70 mph, will you get fined $100 for violating the slow-moving-vehicle-in-the-left-lane law? Will the state troopers even bother to enforce the law?

And there are a couple of unique traffic situations that further confound the rules.

On the weekend of any Vikings home game, beware of North Dakota fans in a hurry to get to the game.

Keep your eye on your rear-view mirror for a Peace Garden State plate on the front bumper of an F-150 or a Tahoe heading to the big game at 80-plus mph. Get over or get run over. Who gets the ticket? The Fargo fan cruising 10 or 15 mph over the limit or the Minnesota taxpayer going 75 mph…but too slow?

If you’re a detail-oriented driver, you’ve noticed the rough road surface on the right lane of I-94 between Clearwater and Monticello. If you stay in the right lane for the entire 16-mile stretch, you may have the fillings jarred out of your teeth. Move to the left lane and be ready to roll at 75 to 80 mph or risk high-beam lights in your mirror, finger gestures or tailgating.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation is working to fix that problem this summer by “diamond grinding” to smooth the road surface.

With or without North Dakota drivers and rough roads, the speed of traffic under “existing conditions” will still be much faster than the posted speed limit.

Maybe drivers are different in Sen. Jasinski’s home turf on I-35 around Faribault. But before the Legislature votes, I’d like him to ride with my wife on I-94.

Author: Mike Knaak

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