Thursday, March 25, 2010

Zen and the art of traveling around Duluth during freeway construction...

By Jim Heffernan

The Minnesota Department of Transportation has announced a near total rebuilding of the Interstate 35 system through Duluth starting this spring. Officials warn it will cause major traffic disruptions for the next two years and are advising Duluthians to choose routes other than the freeway as they move about and in and out of the city.

Accordingly, the Duluth daily newspaper has published maps and descriptions of routes motorists can take to avoid using the freeway during the lengthy construction period. This is a valuable public service, but naturally the newspaper can’t address every possible alternative route and has asked well-meaning citizens to contribute helpful suggestions on how to avoid using the freeway and still get from place to place in long, narrow Duluth.

As a person who actually lived and drove in Duluth before the freeway was built, I believe I can make a significant contribution to this process, filling in gaps left by the newspaper that will assist drivers in planning their travel throughout the city. Here are a few:

1. Park Point residents should avoid driving into downtown Duluth entirely, since, in an unrelated transportation project, the city has initiated a 10-year plan to paint the Aerial Lift Bridge with a three-inch brush. It leaves only a single lane on the bridge, causing massive traffic backups of unwelcome foreign invaders (meaning non-Park Point residents) intent on fouling the beaches protected in Canon Law and Biblical command (see Deuteronomy) for use only by well-established point residents.

Therefore, residents of Park Point who reluctantly travel off the point now and then are advised to drive to the small airport at the end of the roadway and hire an airplane. For others, who can’t afford an airplane or are afraid of flying, City Councilors have proposed establishing campsites in the old-growth forest beyond (south of) the airport where travelers can stay while workers construct an arc to transport them, together with two of every endangered species on the Point including dune grass and the poor, to Superior.

2. To travel from eastern and downtown Duluth to Proctor (a few dozen Duluthians reluctantly do this each year) people are advised to take Skyline Parkway to Horseshoe Bend (40th Avenue West), south to Grand Avenue (the start of something grand), turn briefly eastward to the former DM&IR (now CN) Ore Docks, climb the ladder attached to one of the uprights just off Grand Avenue and board a train to Proctor.

3. Sickly residents of Gary-New Duluth making emergency runs to the downtown hospitals should access the Munger Trail, where the city will post dogsleds (in winter) and four-wheelers in non-snowy seasons to tow gurneys as far east as the trail goes, at which point paramedics will begin triage and see where it goes from there depending on the patient’s condition.

4. Motorists leaving Miller Hill Mall and heading for Superior should go north on Highway 53 to Virginia, proceed toward Hibbing (avoiding Meadowlands), veer southeast on Highway 73 to Moose Lake, south on I-35 to Hinckley, east on some road there connecting to Wisconsin, north on Wisconsin Highway 35 to South Superior and stop at the Shamrock Pizza for refreshments.

5. UMD and St. Scholastica students from the Twin Cities wishing to go home for Easter or Passover, to engage in a pagan celebration of spring or to have their laundry done, should carpool and travel south on Woodland Avenue, west on Fourth Street, south on 12th Avenue East one block to Third Street, go west on Third Street, cross Mesaba Avenue, proceed through Little Italy to Goat Hill, descend steeply downward to Piedmont Avenue (watch out for mountain goats), head north on Piedmont (skirting just northwest of Goosetown) to Highway 53 (Walter Mondale Boulevard) and follow the same route in No. 4 above, only continue south on I-35 at Hinckley to the Twin Cities metro area to join with others in the metro’s permanent gridlock until a Mississippi River bridge collapses.

6. To go from your house to my house, call me in 2012 for directions.

That’s about it. Following these simple instructions, drivers should have no trouble at all getting around Duluth for the next two years or Armageddon, whichever comes first.

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