Chart of the Day: Highway 5 Bridge Traffic Flows

A map of southwestern St. Paul showing how traffic splits up from the bridge.

Map of traffic flows to/from the Minnesota Highway 5 bridge over the Mississippi River.

Here is a map from Saint Paul’s Highway 5 / Shepard Road Access Options Study which uses cellphone tracking data to show traffic flows to/from the MN-5 bridge over the Mississippi River. The bridge carries about 56,000 vehicles per day. The study has the goals of updating infrastructure in the area to:

  • Improve vehicle, bicycle, and pedestrian access,
  • Balance traffic volumes between West 7th Street and Shepard Road, and
  • Represent the neighborhood as a gateway into Saint Paul.

Analyzing data like this is just one way they’re planning to do that.

Edgcumbe Road stands out as a major source/sink, accounting for 25% of traffic on the bridge. In the upper-right corner of the map, this shows about 35% of traffic is heading through the study area in the general direction of downtown St. Paul on Shepard Road (15%), Interstate 35E (15%), or West 7th Street itself (5%).

20% of bridge traffic comes from the neighborhood between West 7th and Shepard Road, while 15% heads up Davern Street. Only about 5% heads up Mississippi River Boulevard.

This map doesn’t try to show traffic that never hits the Highway 5 bridge, though it’s possible to get some idea of that by comparing this map to overall traffic in the area—for instance, the chart in this article doesn’t do a good job of showing that Shepard Road typically only carries half as many cars as West 7th does through this area.

About Mike Hicks

Mike Hicks is a computer geek at heart, but has always had interests in transportation and urban planning. A longtime contributor to Wikipedia, he started a blog about trains and other transportation after realizing it had been two decades since he'd first heard about a potential high-speed rail line from Chicago to Minneapolis. Read more at

15 thoughts on “Chart of the Day: Highway 5 Bridge Traffic Flows

      1. Mike Hicks Post author

        Well, I guess I did throw that in there to raise some eyebrows, though this is hardly the only place this type of data has been used. I definitely get a bit skeeved out by it, though the same or similar information gets used to show traffic congestion on your favorite GPS device/mapping app/website. (MnDOT has their own sensors in the ground on many area highways, but mobile device tracking fills in many of the arterial streets and highways outside the metro.)

    1. Mike Hicks Post author

      I hope they’ll create a corresponding map for the other end of the bridge, since there is a complex interchange there connecting MN-5, MN-55, MN-62, and some ramps for Fort Snelling. A lot of traffic is also headed for I-494 to reach the Bloomington strip and other suburbs.

      1. Adam FroehligAdam Froehlig

        Such a origin-destination chart would be nice, but I’m not sure there’s a pressing need for it related to this study.

        That said, a quick analysis of MnDOT traffic data suggests that about 1/3 of Fort Rd Bridge traffic exits onto or enters from 55, with the rest coming to/from the airport, 494, or beyond.

  1. Matt Brillhart

    A little Twitter convo going on regarding Hwy. 5 / Shepard Rd re-routing here:

    I’m very interested to see what options they come up with. How does MNDOT or Ramsey County feel about the whole “get MN-5 off West 7th and onto Shepard” thing? St. Paul is the lead agency on the study, yes? Seems like much more of a regional decision, but glad St. Paul is in the driver’s seat (pun intended)

    1. Adam FroehligAdam Froehlig

      MnDOT’s preference (as documented in recent Metro Division long-range plans) is to designate Shepard Rd/Warner Rd as a state highway and turn back West 7th to the county.

  2. Matt Brillhart

    That chart shows 25% of the traffic coming over the bridge heading up Edgcumbe…that can’t be right, can it? What are the volumes on that street? I guess it does serve trips continuing on to Fairview and to Cleveland/Ford (via St. Paul Ave)

    Not sure if it’s outside of the study area, but it looks like Edgcumbe & St. Paul Ave could really use a roundabout and some major traffic calming.

    1. Adam FroehligAdam Froehlig

      Edgcumbe between Hwy 5 and St. Paul Ave averages around 14K. That’s 25% of 56K (the 2012 average volume for the bridge). There might be a little bit of traffic that turns on/off at the side streets, but that figure is likely pretty close to the actual.

    2. Daniel Herriges

      Fairview / Edgcumbe is the preferred route for virtually all the western neighborhoods of St. Paul to get to and from the airport and 494 corridor. I grew up in the Como Park area and we always used it, because Snelling can get congested (and also doesn’t offer a direct connection to the freeway portion of MN-5). So it’s a more important connection than a map would suggest.

  3. Adam FroehligAdam Froehlig

    This graphic verifies what I had estimated when I came up with my Shepard/West 7th design a few months ago…that you could theoretically divert 10-12K of daily traffic (~18-20% of bridge traffic) from West 7th onto Shepard if there were direct connections built from Shepard to the bridge and to 35E North.

    1. Joseph TottenJoseph Totten

      I’d hazard with this map, the numbers might be even higher. Likely with such a redesign you propose, more traffic would use Shepard instead of W. 7th to access the neighborhood. (15% + 5% + 12% maximum?, 12% is my out of thin air assumption that 60% of drivers accessing the neighborhood use W 7th)

      1. Adam FroehligAdam Froehlig

        Going with a more conservative (and IMO realistic) estimate, you’d pull the 15% that’s going to/from 35E, plus another 5% that’s theoretically using West 7th to access the area between West 7th and Shepard. 20% of 56K = 11.2K.

  4. Mikey

    Eliminate Gannon Rd. Extend Edgcumbe straight south to current Shepard / extended Miss River Blvd with a signalized (or roundabout) intersection @ West 7th. West of Edgcumbe, 7th becomes ramps to WB / from EB Hwy 5. Hwy 5 / New Shepard turns and runs due east under Edgcumbe, returning to grade at Davern.

    Just need to figure out where Mississippi River Blvd ends / ties in on the east end (Davern & Crosby Farm Rd?)

    Phase 2 would be completing the ramps at Shepard and 35E

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