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. is a non-profit and is volunteer run. We rely on your support to keep the servers running. If you value what you read, please consider becoming a member.

15 Responses to Chart of the Day: Highway 5 Bridge Traffic Flows

  1. Joseph Totten
    Joseph Totten April 24, 2015 at 3:12 pm #

    8,400 Vehicles cutting from 35E to the airport alone.

    • Joseph Totten
      Joseph Totten April 24, 2015 at 3:19 pm #

      Also, this seems kinda creepy how they were able to do this…

      • Mike Hicks April 24, 2015 at 5:50 pm #

        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.)

    • Mike Hicks April 24, 2015 at 3:35 pm #

      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.

      • Adam Froehlig
        Adam Froehlig April 24, 2015 at 6:13 pm #

        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.

  2. Matt Brillhart April 24, 2015 at 4:34 pm #

    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)

    • Adam Froehlig
      Adam Froehlig April 24, 2015 at 6:18 pm #

      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.

  3. Matt Brillhart April 24, 2015 at 4:42 pm #

    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.

    • Adam Froehlig
      Adam Froehlig April 24, 2015 at 6:20 pm #

      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.

    • Daniel Herriges April 25, 2015 at 9:47 am #

      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.

  4. Adam Froehlig
    Adam Froehlig April 24, 2015 at 6:27 pm #

    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.

    • Joseph Totten
      Joseph Totten April 25, 2015 at 11:14 am #

      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)

      • Adam Froehlig
        Adam Froehlig April 26, 2015 at 1:25 pm #

        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.

  5. Mikey April 25, 2015 at 10:56 am #

    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

    • Mikey April 25, 2015 at 10:57 am #

      Oh yeah, the EB off ramp would have to bridge over Shepard Rd / Hwy 5

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